Cervical cancer treatment: Minimally invasive radical hysterectomy vs. abdominal hysterectomy

Abdominal radical hysterectomies (also called “open” hysterectomies) typically are thought of as more difficult for patients to recover from than a minimally invasive radical hysterectomy. But new research shows they’re safer for early-stage cervical cancer patients. MD Anderson gynecologic oncologists led two studies looking at the two techniques: abdominal radical hysterectomy: the more traditional method of surgery in which surgeons remove the uterus and other surrounding structures,  through an incision in the patient’s lower abdomen minimally invasive radical hysterectomy: when surgeons conduct a surgery using very small incisions and remove the uterus and surrounding parts They found that cervical cancer patients who had minimally invasive radical hysterectomies were four times more likely to experience recurrence than those who had open surgery. They also had lower survival rates. As a result of the studies' findings, MD Anderson gynecologic oncologists made the decision to no longer perform minimally invasive radical hysterectomies on cervical cancer patients. Our physicians recommend that these patients undergo open abdominal radical hysterectomies instead.   We spoke with Pedro Ramirez, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist and surgeon who led one of the studies, about what else patients should know about surgery for cervical cancer treatment. Here’s what he had to say.  What’s the difference between a radical hysterectomy and a simple hysterectomy? In a simple hysterectomy, the uterus is removed. In a radical hysterectomy, the uterus and some surrounding parts around the cervix are removed.  The open radical hysterectomy is performed by removing the uterus through an incision (similar to the one made in a C-section) in the lower abdomen. Radical hysterectomies typically are used in cancer treatment to...

Colorectal cancer survivor turns to clinical trial for neuropathy relief

Over the last year and a half, Shams Peerbhai has tried just about everything to cope with peripheral neuropathy, a cancer treatment side effect that commonly causes tingling, burning, weakness or numbness in the hands and/or feet. Now, the stage III colorectal cancer survivor is hoping a neuromodulation clinical trial eases his pain. “I've already been through so much, I'm willing to try anything that works,” he says. “I'm grateful to be cancer-free, but if there's any way I can get rid of the side effects, then that's great.” Starting colorectal cancer treatment In January 2017, a trip to a Houston-area emergency room revealed the diarrhea, vomiting and pain Shams had endured for several weeks was caused by a tennis ball-sized tumor in his colon. After an emergency surgery to remove his tumor, part of his colon and 22 lymph nodes, he came to MD Anderson to continue his colorectal cancer treatment. During his first visit, Shams learned that he’d developed an infection from fecal matter leaking from the site of his surgery. Imad Shureiqi, M.D., said he needed another surgery to stop the leakage and assess a spot on his liver. After that, he’d need chemotherapy just in case the cancer had spread beyond the one lymph node that tested positive for cancer. “I just put my faith in Dr. Shureiqi to do what he thought was best,” Shams recalls. In March 2017, Shams underwent a second partial colectomy with Nancy You, M.D. During the surgery, Yun Shin Chun-Segraves, M.D., determined that the tumor on his liver was benign. A month later, he began receiving a chemotherapy cocktail...

Breast cancer survivor: Don’t wait to have lumps looked at

My dad’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was in her 60s. But that was considered pretty normal at the time, so she didn’t have any genetic testing done. That’s why it was such a shock to be diagnosed with breast cancer myself at age 28 in January 2017. As far as I knew, my grandmother and I were the only people in my family who’d ever had cancer. Because I was so young when I was diagnosed, I got genetic testing done almost immediately. That’s how I learned that my breast cancer was related to two genetic mutations: BRCA2 and HER2. I also discovered that literally all of the women on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family had had some type of BRCA2-related cancer, too — so I’d inherited that genetic mutation from her. My breast cancer diagnosis I was still breastfeeding my youngest child in late 2016 when I felt a lump in my right breast. I figured it was just a clogged milk duct, so I ignored it. But it started getting bigger. My husband finally convinced me to get it checked out. So I went to my doctor. She sent me in for a mammogram. The day after that, I had a biopsy, and I was diagnosed with stage III invasive ductal carcinoma. Now, I tell everyone that if you have a lump, get it checked today. Don’t put it off. I ignored mine for months. If I hadn’t, I might’ve just been able to have a lumpectomy, instead of all the different kinds of treatment I received. I also urge people...

Triple-negative breast cancer survivor: Why I’m glad I stayed on an immunotherapy clinical trial

Until I was diagnosed with stage I triple-negative breast cancer in December 2016, I didn’t know much about immunotherapy. But as an executive assistant in MD Anderson’s Radiation Oncology department for more than 25 years, I’d heard the term used before by our doctors. I never thought that one day it would save my own life. When I started my treatment, I joined a clinical trial being conducted by MD Anderson’s Breast Cancer Moon Shot™. The trial was unique because I was able to start with traditional chemotherapy and move on to other treatments only if that didn’t work. I learned many patients with triple-negative breast cancer respond well to chemotherapy, but this trial would provide me with personalized options if my tumor didn’t. Unfortunately, my tumor progressed after two cycles of chemo. After analyzing my tumor, my doctors thought I would be a good candidate for an immunotherapy clinical trial, also part of the Moon Shot, that was only available here in Houston. What made me try an immunotherapy clinical trial I was a little nervous when Dr. Nuhad Ibrahim first mentioned the clinical trial. To me, that meant I may or may not receive the medicine being tested, and I couldn’t be sure if it would work, even if I did receive it. But Dr. Ibrahim told me that this combination of drugs had already shown some very positive results in treating stage IV ovarian cancer, and triple-negative breast cancer is notoriously hard to treat. After we talked about it, I felt comfortable and confident, so I decided to do it. I started receiving an immunotherapy drug...

My brain tumor story: From caregiver to patient

As a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Puerto Rico, I always tell my patients that in any situation, no matter how hard or difficult it is, there’s always something positive that we can learn. Now, I know how true this statement really is. I learned this first-hand when I started dealing with brain tumors in the summer of 2014 — first as a relative, then as a friend and finally, as a patient myself. Along the way, I developed more compassion for my own patients and learned the value of a good support system. Here’s my story. My father-in-law’s brain tumor On July 23, 2014, our family received the devastating news that my father-in-law had a brain tumor. It was glioblastoma, a very aggressive type of brain cancer. His neurosurgeon told us that because of the tumor’s location, it was too dangerous to perform surgery in Puerto Rico. He referred us to MD Anderson’s Sujit Prabhu, M.D., for a second opinion. Less than 24 hours after we reached out, Dr. Prabhu responded. We made an appointment with him and arrived at MD Anderson’s Brain and Spine Center two weeks later. My father-in-law was scheduled for surgery right away. His craniotomy took place in the BrainSuite®, a special operating room with an integrated MRI, something not all hospitals have. Dr. Prabhu and his team were able to remove most of the tumor, giving my father-in-law a chance to live longer with better quality of life. We were so happy with the surgery that I told my husband, “If I ever get something in my head, I want Dr. Prabhu to...