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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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VA Docs Give Veteran's Double Cancer a Quick One, Two Punch

January 31, 2011

Patient wife and doctors

Only a very few, highly specialized hospitals have the ability and expertise to treat both liver and rectal cancers using these minimally invasive techniques; the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center being one,” said Avo Artinyan, M.D., Operative Care Line staff surgeon and assistant professor of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine (left) with Pam Mitchell, Army Veteran Jerial Mitchell, and Daniel A. Anaya, M.D., surgical oncologist, director of the DeBakey VA Liver Tumor Program, and an assistant professor of Surgery/Surgical Oncology at Baylor College of Medicine.
PHOTO: Bobbi Gruner
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HOUSTON – Cancer experts at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) recently performed two unique procedures in a very short timeframe to successfully treat a 71-year-old Veteran suffering from both liver and rectal cancer.

A colonoscopy performed by his health care provider found Army Veteran Jerial Mitchell had rectal cancer. Further examination also discovered the cancer had spread to his liver. Doctors told him the bad news, but also gave him hope by outlining a specialized treatment plan for his particular medical condition.

“Mr. Mitchell was examined by our multidisciplinary team of experienced and knowledgeable cancer care specialists,” said Daniel A. Anaya, M.D., surgical oncologist, director of the DeBakey VA Liver Tumor Program, and an assistant professor of Surgery/Surgical Oncology at Baylor College of Medicine. “It was determined the appropriate course of action was an ‘inverse strategy’ with upfront chemotherapy immediately followed by a laparoscopic hepatectomy and subsequently by a robot-assisted laparoscopic rectal resection.”

“The doctors did not want to waste any time,” said Mitchell’s wife, Pam. “When I told friends that Jerial was going to the VA for treatment, they asked if we had considered other choices. But I saw how careful and thorough the VA doctors were and I knew they would take good care of him.”

The inverse strategy together with the minimally invasive approach to Mitchell's liver and rectal surgeries, including a laparoscopic major hepatectomy (minimally invasive removal of part of the liver) followed by a robot-assisted laparoscopic rectal resection, allowed for the treatment of both cancer lesions simultaneously. Both surgeries were performed in the span of one month.

“Only treating one cancer at a time would have allowed the other to go unchecked for a significant period of time. That option was not acceptable for us, and definitely not for Mr. Mitchell and his family,” said Avo Artinyan, M.D., Operative Care Line staff surgeon and assistant professor of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. “Only a small number of medical centers are using this strategy, and very few, highly specialized hospitals have the ability and expertise to treat both liver and rectal cancers using these minimally invasive techniques; the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center being one.”

Less than two months after surgery, Mitchell has a new outlook on life.

“I have been very impressed with the care at the VA. The nurses in the Intensive Care Unit were excellent and provided me the best possible care,” said Mitchell. “Today, I have a very positive prognosis and look forward to getting back to my family, retirement, and my hobbies.”

“The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center offers Veterans the very latest medical and surgical treatments available for cancer,” said David H. Berger, M.D., M.H.C.M., Operative Care Line executive and chairman of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. “We constantly strive to open new doors and make new medical alternatives available for our Veterans.”

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Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 120,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, and Richmond, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged more than one million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2010. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit www.houston.va.gov