BALTIMORE — Cancer that metastasizes to the brain can be one of the most difficult to fight. So, doctors are incorporating new tools to beat this deadly foe.
Dorothy Barber was diagnosed with bowel cancer that had spread into 19 lymph nodes after experiencing pain in her side for two years. She underwent surgery, chemo and immunotherapy for 14 months. Then, she started experiencing something new.
“I started with what I thought was vertigo, and I had some dizziness, balance issues,” Dorothy recalled.
Imaging showed an adenocarcinoma — cancer of the brain.
“They discovered a grape-sized tumor near my cerebellum and spinal cord,” she added.
Mercy Medical Center Neurosurgeon Dr. Jon McIver utilized this stealth navigation system to map out the tumor before surgery. In surgery, he made a very small incision.
“Then, we can travel through the brain, separating pathways until we find the tumor. The challenge in our patient’s case was the tumor wasn’t here on the surface, it was all the way back here,” Dr. McIver explained to Ivanhoe.
Dorothy says, “They biopsied the tumor that they removed, and they found that it was the same cancer from my bowel.”
With the tumor removed, Dorothy got another surprise – a song her husband had written just for her.
Dr. McIver says what’s groundbreaking in brain cancer treatment is pairing neuro-mapping and surgery with immunotherapy, because it primes the immune system to recognize the tumor cells as foreign.
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