David Chao, MD: Ron Rivera Will Need Our Prayers With SCC Diagnosis

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My thoughts and prayers go out to Washington Football coach Ron Rivera and his family as he has been diagnosed with “Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) located in a lymph node.”

This is a very significant and worrisome declaration from the team. 

Squamous cells are the outer layer of our skin (epidermis) and the statement means the cancer has spread, as there are no naturally occurring squamous cells in our lymph nodes. This is considered at least Stage 3 (out of 4) cancer.

The indication that “this cancer is in an early stage and is considered very treatable and curable” gives great hope. Typically, Stage 1 and 2 of this type of skin cancer are slow growing and have over 90% cure rates. With the lymph node, this means at least Stage 3 cancer.

I hope there is only one lymph node affected and no spread of the tumor to distant organs, which would mean Stage 4 and a potentially worse outcome.

Depending on the original location and size of the tumor, treatment is likely to consist of local excision surgery with radiation with the possibility of chemotherapy. Of course, Rivera plans to continue coaching while he receives treatment.  Certainly this regimen can have side effects and Washington has made contingency plans.

I have immense respect for Rivera on a professional and personal level. I had the fortune of working with him and we used to have great conversations standing up in the back of the team charter on the way to and from road games. I have had the pleasure to know his family well. With the personal attachment, I have no desire to intrude on their privacy but feel compelled to explain my worries, hope for the best and ask for prayers. I know Rivera and his family will tackle this head on like he made plays on the football field and as he attacks the coaching profession.

Join me in thoughts and prayers to Ron and his family. Let’s hope the news continues to be good.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.


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  1. The power of prayer is the most powerful force we have. Believe in it.

    Btw – Thank you Dr. Chao, its great to hear your insider perspectives. As a Chargers fan I remember the Rivera years as DC, he was great to have on our side. Praying not only for his full recovery but also that he can help rekindle what is a great franchise in Washington. Their fans deserve it.

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