Immediate Action was Key in Diagnosing and Treating Uterine Cancer for
Loretta Schuck (right) with her granddaughter Kayla Caffrey, who often
accompanied Loretta to her appointments.
Long Branch, NJ – According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States,
approximately 71,500 women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer and nearly
26,500 women die from it. Monmouth Medical Center, a leader in advanced
gynecological robotic surgery, is committed to educating women that awareness
and vigilance are key to identifying cancer early.
Gynecologic malignancies comprise cancers of the female reproductive organs,
such as the uterus, ovaries, cervix, vagina or vulva. At times, patients
are unaware of the symptoms related to these conditions and delay initial
work-up and evaluation that would allow for early diagnosis.
“In case of ovarian cancer, for example, patients may have vague
and non-specific symptoms that they may attribute to gastrointestinal
tract, such as bloating, change in bowel habits, intermittent nausea and
early satiety, so they may not seek care early on. By the time they come
to us, the disease is diagnosed at a more advanced stage,” says
Nonna Kolomeyevskaya, MD, gynecologic oncologist with Monmouth Medical
Center and Barnabas Health Medical Group. “When women are more aware
and cautious of any changes in their bodies and the symptoms associated
with different types of cancers, they seek medical guidance sooner. Diagnosis
at an earlier stage correlates with better prognosis.”
Not all gynecologic cancers have the same symptoms and each individual
may experience different signs and symptoms. Symptoms of various gynecologic
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Feeling full too quickly or difficulty eating
- Bloating, nausea
- Increase in abdominal girth
- Changes in bowel movements, including constipation, change in the caliber
of stool, diarrhea
- Sensation of urgency and frequency with urination
- Abdominal or lower back pain
- Itching, burning or pain in the vulva
- Appearance of new lesions (“spots,” masses), pigmentation on the vulva
While ovarian cancer – known as a silent killer because of the difficulty
detecting it early, women with certain types of uterine cancer are often
diagnosed at an earlier stage.
“The most common – and typically the only symptom – of
uterine cancer or pre-cancer is postmenopausal bleeding or spotting,”
says Dr. Kolomeyevskaya. “This frequently brings women to their
gynecologist for an initial evaluation.”
Such was the case with Loretta Schuck. When the 77-year-old Manchester
resident noticed a small spot of blood after urinating, she immediately
contacted her gynecologist.
“I knew something was up, and that I needed to have it taken care
of,” she says.
Loretta acted promptly, quickly scheduling an appointment with her gynecologist
who scheduled her for testing. After a sonogram and biopsy revealed the
cause of Loretta’s bleeding was uterine cancer, she enlisted the
help of Dr. Kolomeyevskaya.
Based on Loretta’s test results, Dr. Kolomeyevskaya recommended Loretta
undergo a total hysterectomy with removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes
along with staging procedure that included removal of the lymph nodes.
Dr. Kolomeyevskaya performed Loretta’s surgery at Monmouth Medical
Center a short time later. Using minimally invasive robotic technology,
Dr. Kolomeyevskaya was able to perform surgery through small cosmetic
incisions across Loretta’s abdomen – resulting in faster recovery,
minimal abdominal discomfort, essentially no blood loss, short overnight
hospitalization and an overall quick return to normal daily activities.
“In the past, these procedures were all done via open surgery with
a big midline vertical incision across the abdomen resulting in a longer
hospital stay, longer recovery, more pain and more time required before
return to normal functioning,” says Dr. Kolomeyevskaya. “This
approach expedited Loretta’s recovery and a return to her baseline
activities, which in turn allowed her to move ahead with other treatments
Loretta was discharged from Monmouth Medical Center the following morning
and spent the next few weeks at her daughter’s home recovering,
before she began the next step of treatment.
“The healing was phenomenal,” she says. “All along I
felt very good. I was never in agony and stopped the pain medication within
days – all of which I attribute to Dr. Kolomeyevskaya’s skill
and the robotics.”
The final pathology report from Loretta’s hysterectomy confirmed
the diagnosis of Stage IA serous uterine carcinoma. In order to prevent
disease recurrence, she required a course of chemotherapy and radiation.
Loretta opted to have her care at RWJBarnabas Health sister hospital Community
Medical Center which is located in Toms River, near her Manchester home.
Under the care of medical oncologist Sudha Kavuru, MD, Loretta underwent
a total of six cycles of chemotherapy with a course of radiation therapy
in the middle of her chemo treatments. She was under the care of radiation
oncologist Rajesh Iyer, MD, chair of the department of radiation oncology
at Community Medical Center’s J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center,
who utilized high-dose rate brachytherapy to destroy the cancer cells,
while sparing Loretta’s normal, healthy tissue.
Loretta credits her success through surgery and treatment to her quick
decision to seek treatment, the tremendous support of her sisters, daughters,
grandchildren and friends, the power of prayer and the high quality of
care and compassion from those treating her.
“Hearing you have cancer is not light news, but when you know you’ve
gotten it early, that all the care you’re getting is state-of-the-art
and delivered by gifted doctors and nurses, it’s not the nightmare
it used to be,” she says.
“Women should seek prompt medical care if they develop any new symptoms,
know their family medical history. Those with close family members who
have been diagnosed with colon, breast, uterine or ovarian cancers, especially
affecting several generations or diagnosed at a younger age, may benefit
from genetic counseling,” says Dr. Kolomeyevskaya. “Regular
pelvic exams, even if a Pap test is not indicated, can help with diagnosis.
Many conditions, including certain types of gynecologic cancers, can be
picked up on the exam. Although we cannot provide effective screening
for ovarian cancer, we can definitely provide screening for cervical cancers
and make recommendations to treat pre-cancerous conditions of the reproductive
tract that are aimed at preventing malignancy in the future.”
“Most importantly, always be aware of your body. Any unusual symptoms
or changes should always be a sign to see your doctor,” she emphasizes.
For more information about Gynecologic Oncology at Monmouth Medical Center, call