“My doctors in Spain told me there was no treatment for my cancer.”

Mrs. Rosa M is a 71-year-old Spanish woman with a mucinous appendix tumor, a rare and poorly understood disease. Her initial symptoms included abdominal fullness and pain. She sought treatment with her physicians in Spain who diagnosed her with cancer that spread throughout the abdominal cavity. The doctors were uncertain of the cancer’s exact origin, but they felt that she was inoperable and placed her on chemotherapy to relieve her symptoms.

Mrs. M’s children brought her to the United States where they sought second opinions. They were told that chemotherapy was the only treatment option at one cancer center, and at another center, they were told that surgery would likely fail to remove all the disease. She came to Stony Brook where extensive cytoreduction and HIPEC was successfully performed to remove all the disease.

Although the operation was complex and the hospitalization long, Mrs. M and her husband are now enjoying her disease-free days back in Spain. Her only complaint is the nerve damage from the unnecessary chemotherapy that she received. We have asked her a few questions about her experience with this complicated disease.

Mrs. Rosa M back in Spain, after surgery with HIPEC provided by Dr. Joseph Kim.

Q: What did your original physicians tell you about your disease and its likely course?

A: I was diagnosed in November 2015 with peritoneal carcinomatosis. I was told it probably originated in an ovary or in my small bowel. It was deemed untreatable, and I was given six to nine months to live. I was placed on palliative chemotherapy (Folfox 6).

Q: Were you ever told that there was no more possible treatment for your disease?

A: Yes, my doctors in Spain told me there was no treatment for my cancer. I was later told the same in consultations at both Dana Farber in Boston (where the doctor told me straight out “this is a life-ending event”) and at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where they originally concurred with my Spanish doctors in continuing with chemotherapy adding Avastin. Later, a surgeon at Sloan suggested a laparoscopy to do exploratory surgery to determine if complete cytoreduction were possible, and if not, to do partial surgery and follow with chemo.

Q: How did you learn about cytoreduction surgery and HIPEC at Stony Brook?

A: I learned about cytoreduction with HIPEC by reading about treatment options for peritoneal carcinomatosis, and came across Dr. Paul Sugarbaker’s work in the area. I only learned of Dr. Joseph Kim and Stony Brook Medicine the week before my consultation in October 2016. To this day, I can’t really explain how, as he had never before come up in my many Internet searches for treatment. Thank God, he finally did!

Q: What is your current level of activity? Is it back to baseline or close to getting there?

A: My level of activity is at, or slightly better than, where it was just before surgery, though I’m still suffering the effects and damage of the neuropathy caused by chemotherapy. But I’m regaining strength on a daily basis.

Originally posted on Stony Brook Cancer Center, Cytoreductive Surgery and HIPEC Patient Testimonials reposted with permission.

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