Peter Tork Battled Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, Cancer That Affected His Tongue

Peter Tork cancer


Legendary musician Peter Tork, best known for his contributions to The Monkees, has died. According to the Washington Post, Tork’s sister, Anne Thorkelson, confirmed the news but did not reveal her brother’s exact cause of death. He was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2009 but it’s unclear if the disease played a role in his passing.

Tork, 77, is survived by his wife, Pam, and his three children, Ivan, Erica, and Hallie (from previous relationships).

Here’s what you need to know:

He Was Diagnosed With a Rare Form of Cancer in 2009

Peter Tork Dead

GettyTork pictured in June 1967.

For several years, Tork battled cancer. He was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma back in 2009. The rare form of cancer usually starts in the secretory glands and is most commonly found in the salivary glands of the head and neck, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Tork’s cancer started in his tongue.

“Due to its slow growth, ACC has a relatively indolent but relentless course. Unlike most carcinomas, most patients with ACC survive for 5 years, only to have tumors recur and progress. In a recent study of a cohort of 160 ACC patients, disease-specific survival was 89% at 5 years but only 40% at 15 years. Another unusual feature of ACC is that, unlike most carcinomas, it seldom metastasizes to regional lymph nodes. Distant metastasis is the most common presentation of treatment failure. The lung is by far the most common site of metastasis, with the liver being the second most common site. Bone metastases usually indicate a fulminant clinical course. Poor prognostic signs at the time of initial surgery are a solid growth pattern, perineural invasion of major nerves and/or positive margins after histopathologic examination.”

He Underwent Surgery & Radiation Treatments After His Diagnosis

Peter Tork Photos


Tork went to the doctor after “not swallowing correctly.” His friends also noticed that his voice sounded a bit different, which he described as “kind of squawky and nasal” in a guest blog for the Washington Post. Tork made an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist. The doctor suspected Tork had squamous cell carcinoma but tests needed to be run to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor ordered a biopsy and pathology lab and within a few days, Tork learned his diagnosis; adenoid cystic carcinoma.

About a week or so after his diagnosis, Tork underwent surgery at a hospital in New York. Three months after surgery, Tork traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, where he underwent radiation treatments.

“As of this writing, I’m just beginning to feel the effects of the second course of radiation, a bit of soreness on the tongue, some unpleasant effects when swallowing. So far, not too bad. I have a couple of performance dates lined up, which I’ve opted not to cancel. I know I’m taking a chance here because one of the side effects of the radiation is supposed to be hoarseness. The radiologist told me, ‘Well, you play guitar and you sing. Perhaps you won’t sing, but maybe you’ll play guitar a lot more,'” Tork wrote in his piece for WaPo.

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