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Mary Adzigian – Colon Cancer Survivor

Advanced Surgical Technique Gives Hope to More Patients

Mary Adzigian of Grosse Pointe Woods has always worked hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. She eats well, exercises and makes sure to get regular health checkups, including a colonoscopy. In the fall of 2007, Adzigian decided to see her doctor to have some digestive discomfort checked out. The initial diagnosis was colitis, but follow-up exams revealed more – Adzigian had stage IV colon cancer and it had spread to her liver.

“I thought, ‘I can’t have colon cancer – my previous colonoscopy results were fine,’” says Adzigian, 59. “Having cancer is a life-changing experience. My husband and I have a 10-year-old daughter we adopted from China. She had already lost one mother. I was determined not to be the second.”

One tumor was wrapped tightly around Adzigian’s colon and there were nine others on her liver. Because of the number of tumors and their size, immediate surgery was not possible. With seemingly few options, Adzigian scheduled an appointment at the Karmanos Cancer Center and met Bassel El-Reyes, M.D., gastrointestinal oncologist and assistant professor of medicine, Wayne State University (WSU) School of Medicine and Madhu Prasad, M.D., co-chief of Surgical Oncology at Karmanos and WSU School of Medicine. After carefully considering her case, they jointly recommended aggressive chemotherapy followed by a new surgical technique called Microwave Ablation to destroy the tumors.

“Drs. El-Reyes and Prasad felt this approach would be less stressful on my liver,” Adzigian says. “My physicians were brilliant and masterful in their care, and I had great confidence in them and everyone at Karmanos. There was no hand-wringing on my end.”

A More Effective Method

The Covidien Evident™ Microwave Ablation System allows surgeons to destroy tumors without removing them from the patient. Karmanos is one of the first hospitals in the world to acquire this powerful tool, and it is the only cancer center in Michigan with this technology.

The technique works through high-temperature microwaves, which emanate from a probe directed with pinpoint precision at the tumor. Microwave ablation is more effective than radio frequency ablation (RFA) or cryosurgery because surgeons can apply higher temperatures to destroy tumors more quickly and patients experience fewer side effects.

“Because the liver is a vascular organ filled with blood vessels, it can keep the temperature within a tumor lower and reduce the effectiveness of RFA or cryosurgery,” Dr. Prasad explains. “Microwave ablation enables us to approach liver tumors in ways that weren’t previously possible. The technique also allows us to destroy larger tumors. I use it routinely as part of my surgical practice, as do a number of my colleagues.

“This technique reflects our commitment to providing leading edge care to our patients. Karmanos doesn’t just offer the ordinary – we’re constantly seeking new and better ways to treat tumors. Microwave ablation is a step in that direction.”

A Forward Thinking Approach

After undergoing six months of chemotherapy, Adzigian had several surgeries to remove the tumor around her colon and to cut off the blood flow to the right side of her liver where most of the tumors remained. Last October, Dr. Prasad performed a liver resection on her and used microwave ablation to destroy the remaining tumors. A December CT scan showed that Adzigian’s liver had become rejuvenated and there were no signs of tumors.

“I did beautifully with the surgeries and my pain was controlled very well,” Adzigian says. “I feel terrific and want to ask my doctors about starting an exercise plan to regain my stamina.”

Adzigian says that one of the biggest factors in her recovery is the confidence Karmanos doctors and staff displayed when treating her.

“Karmanos has a forward thinking approach that helped me maintain a positive attitude,” Adzigian says. “The physicians looked at a liver that was not operable and created a step-by-step strategy that would work. They didn’t give up on me or treat me as if I were waiting to die – they treated me because I wanted to live. Karmanos gave me life.”

For more information about the Covidien Evident™ Microwave Ablation System and other high-tech tools used at the Karmanos Cancer Center, call 1-800-KARMANOS.
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