Section: Monmouth Medical Center News

Monmouth Medical Center Reminds Women to Stay Vigilant in the Fight Against Gynecologic Cancer

02/06/2017

Immediate Action was Key in Diagnosing and Treating Uterine Cancer for Manchester Woman

Loretta Schuck with granddaughter

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 cancers include:

  • 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 without delays.”

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 732.870.5500.

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