Rectal Cancer | Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy, Surgery.
On July 4, several years ago, Barry B. began experiencing unexpected symptoms, including irregular bowel movements. It was not until a short time later that he began to understand the seriousness of those symptoms. He says now, “East Jefferson General Hospital saved my life.”
Gastroenterologist Dr. George Catinis performed a digital examination and results showed an abnormality, but did not indicate a tumor at the time, so Dr. Catinis performed a follow-up colonoscopy, which showed a low-lying tumor in the rectum that had penetrated into the muscle and surrounding fat.
“A tumor of this kind is unusual for someone under 50 years old, but it can be found in both men and women,” says Dr. Catinis. “Cancer is easily missed, especially in this location. So we followed our instinct and repeated the test. It was fortunate we did, because if we did not, the cancer would have been found later at an advanced stage. We could have had a very different outcome.”
The Treatment Plan
After discovering the tumor, a treatment plan was formulated that had to include different specialists all working together concurrently to remove the potentially life-threatening tumor and to heal the area around the tumor to minimize the risk of recurrence.
The treatment plan had to involve three specialists who needed to collaborate on the planning of the treatments as well as the timing and order. The three specialists included Dr. Jeffrey Griffin, Colorectal Surgeon, Dr. Sidd Padmanabha, Radiologist Oncologist and Dr. Laura Brinz, Oncologist. Each specialist played a distinct role.
“Usually with rectal cancer such as this we like to treat with chemotherapy and radiation to reduce and shrink the cancer so that the colorectal surgeon can resect the remaining tumor,” says Dr. Brinz. “Always, it is a coordinated team approach. We know when to step in and step out.”
Barry appreciated this approach, though it was a bit overwhelming at first. “This was a pretty mind blowing experience,” he says.
As an oncologist, Dr. Brinz looks for a number of things; the initial response to the combination of chemotherapy and radiation to see how the tumor is reacting, and then she must gauge how much on the tumor remains after the treatment regimens. She also looks for any diseased nodes to see if more chemotherapy is needed.
“It is very rewarding when you get a complete response because you know you have it all,” says Dr. Brinz.
Dr. Sidd administered the radiation portion of the treatment plan to ensure that Dr. Griffin could achieve a complete resection with margins that were free of tumor.
Jeffrey Griffin, M.D., is a specialized Colorectal Surgeon with extensive experience in gastrointestinal surgical oncology. Dr. Griffin has over three decades of experience in dealing with colorectal cancer, and has done well over 3000 cancer operations.
“We were very successful in delivering radiation for Mr. B,” says Dr. Sidd. “I was able to fuse the data from his CT and his PET/CT, and this allowed us to see his tumor very well. The radiation doses to the tumor were checked very carefully, and the doses to the normal tissue structures were kept as low as safely possible. “This allowed us to cure the cancer but also maximize his long-term quality of life.”
With the effectiveness of the chemotherapy and radiation, Dr. Griffin was able to successfully resect the tumor. As a high-volume surgeon with many years of experience specializing in these types of surgeries, Dr. Griffin was also able to preserve complete sphincter function for Barry, and thus, normal quality of life.
Barry says about Dr. Griffin, “Everyone said he was the best and he had the results were at the top. I had complete confidence in the entire team of physicians working to save me.”
Years Later and Still Cancer-Free
Now Barry is cancer-free and feeling great. He credits the entire diagnosis and treatment as the reason he and his family have a deeper appreciation of life. In fact, he says that he was “lucky to go through it,” explaining that it brought him and his family closer and their support got him through the treatment. Surrounding himself with family and friends was the true advantage of receiving excellent care right here at home. His advice to anyone who is diagnosed with any form of cancer is to always stay positive, do your research and seek an experienced medical team you can feel confident about.
“I never wavered that we would get through it,” says Barry. “You need to maintain the positive attitude and make sure you keep yourself educated on the type of cancer you have. Without understanding your disease, you may not know what questions to ask. And, no matter what, never give up.”
We love our patients, so it’s always great to hear feedback from them that tells us that the feeling is mutual! At East Jefferson Radiation Oncology, we work with each patient individually, so their treatment is designed to fit their specific needs. Here are a few stories from our recent clients.
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