Frankfort Woman Survives Heart Attack, Beats Colon Cancer
Terry Giorgi couldn’t wait to see her grandchildren over spring break after enduring a heart attack and colon cancer all within a few months.
On Sept. 12, 2016, Terry was rushed to Silver Cross Hospital after experiencing numbness in both her arms. She survived a cardiac arrest followed by emergency angioplasty in which Dr. Muawia Martini inserted a stent in her artery to treat the blockage.
While recuperating, her primary physician—Dr. Orest Horodysky, noticed Terry’s blood count was low. This was unusual considering she had been given two units of blood while in the hospital. After a week with no improvement, Terry was admitted to Silver Cross where Dr. Zahid Afzal performed an upper and lower GI to determine the cause of the bleeding. This was the 69-year-old’s first colonoscopy and it uncovered a tumor on her colon the size of a lemon.
Dr. Afzal brought in Dr. Brooke Phillips, a medical oncologist with the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital, to meet with Terry and discuss all her options. Together, they determined she should have the tumor surgically removed.
Experience Matters in Treating Colon Cancer
“My daughter asked who I should go see, and they suggested Dr. R.A. Gamagami,” said the Frankfort mother of four children, seven grandchildren and one on the way. Dr. Gamagami is known for his expertise in treating colorectal cancer using the da Vinci surgical robot. Surgeons from around the country visit Silver Cross to gain from his experience in treating patients with colorectal diseases.
“We did our research and Dr. Gamagami’s resume was impeccable,” Terry added. “I felt very comfortable with him. He explained everything to us.”
Because of Terry’s recent cardiac procedure, Dr. Gamagami suggested that she wait a few months before having colon surgery to minimize the risk of another heart attack. Dr. Phillips confirmed that the tumor was slow-growing and that Terry could have blood transfusions while she continued to recover.
On Dec. 30, 2016, Terry underwent robotic-assisted colon surgery in which Dr. Gamagami removed the entire tumor through a few tiny incisions in her abdomen.
“The da Vinci robot provides many advantages over traditional laparoscopic surgery,” says Dr. Gamagami. These advantages include a three-dimensional view that is 10 times magnified for better depth perception. These elements give me a superior view and allows for greater precision. Additionally, the most important advantage to using the robot is that the instruments mimic the motion of the surgeon’s hands hence, better articulation and range of motion which facilitates complex colorectal surgery.”
Dr. Gamagami, who is affiliated with The Midwest Institute for Robotic Surgery at Silver Cross Hospital, has performed more robotic colorectal surgeries at than anyone else in the Chicago area for the past three consecutive years. His experience has resulted in excellent outcomes including extremely low infection rates, leakage rates, length of the hospitalization stay, and rate of conversion from a robotic to an open procedure. He is also in the top 10% in the nation for patient satisfaction.
Chemotherapy Avoided with Specialized Tumor Testing
Further testing of the tumor indicated that Terry has an excellent prognosis and would not need chemotherapy.
“Our pathology department now performs immunohistochemistry (IHC) testing on all colorectal tumors to evaluate for mismatch repair proteins,” said Dr. Phillips. “Her tumor testing revealed abnormal staining for mismatch repair proteins which leads to an accumulation of DNA replication errors in the tumor known as microsatellite instability. This occurs in about 15% of people with colorectal cancer. For stage 2 colorectal cancer, patients have a better overall prognosis and do not benefit from chemotherapy. Terry was thus spared from any additional treatment.”
“Following surgery, the staff got me up right away and I was able to go home on New Year’s Day,” said Terry. “I feel great and can hardly see the scars. I went back to working as a court reporter on March 1.”