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The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Monday that defenseman Olli Maatta will undergo surgery next week to remove a tumor from his neck. Doctors said there's an 85-percent chance of the tumor being a form of "low-grade thyroid cancer."
“Olli will have surgery to remove the tumor,” said Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, the Penguins’ team physician. “Even if it is found to be cancerous, we do not expect that he will need radiation or chemotherapy, and we anticipate a complete recovery. In all likelihood, Olli will go on to live a healthy life and this should not affect his ability to play hockey long-term.”
Doctors discovered the tumor during pre-season physicals and came to their official diagnosis after multiple tests.
"I feel fine,” Maatta told the media Monday, via Wes Crosby. “The only thing that's different is that now, maybe I have cancer."
Maatta has played in all seven games for the Penguins this season, recording five points and averaging 20:12 of ice time per game. He’s been cleared to continue playing until his surgery next week and head coach Mike Johnston said he expects to use the 20-year old defenseman in their three home games this week against New Jersey, Los Angeles and Buffalo.
According to Vyas, after the surgery, Maatta will be able to return to the Penguins’ lineup in four weeks time.
This is the third major health scare to affect the Penguins over the last two seasons. In Sept. 2013, goaltender Tomas Vokoun was diagnosed with a blood clot and missed the entire year. He's now a free agent. Last February, defenseman Kris Letang suffered a stroke and returned in April after missing 10 weeks.
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