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Case Study

Saving lives through early detection

Published November 7th, 2022

Background

Our health is intensely personal. While no diagnosis or experience with cancer is the same, Larry’s case was especially unique. As an active PHM Health Membership client, his Personal Care Team was helping him with his excruciating back issues so that he could go back to his love of sailing. During a routine health check with his PHM Clinician, Larry described an unusual problem he was having when swallowing.

While it was a mild complaint, PHM connected Larry with a highly experienced gastrointestinal specialist who recommended an endoscopy. During the relatively routine scoping to address the swallowing issue, they found a small abnormal growth in his stomach. The specialist took a biopsy and after further evaluation, Larry received a surprising and life-changing diagnosis – stage 1 gastric cancer.

PHM Insights

Larry was fortunate that his cancer was caught early before he was even symptomatic. Larry’s cancer had features of an aggressive variant called signet ring cell cancer, which is almost always diagnosed at advanced stages of the disease.

The prognosis of signet ring-cell cancer is usually poor and is often more extensive and diffuse than it appears – meaning the team had to act quickly. PHM put Larry in contact with a world-renowned surgical team. The surgery was performed five days later.

As with any treatment, there are options and risks. PHM walked Larry through the potential surgical approaches, their possible outcomes, and helped him make an informed decision on his treatment. While he was understandably reluctant to lose part or all of his stomach, the team set up expert consultations that helped him understand this was the best course of treatment given his diagnosis.

Outcomes

In July of 2022, Larry underwent surgery to remove the tumor from his stomach. Although his cancer had been caught early, the tumor was large, and more than 50 percent of Larry’s stomach was removed.

This surgery showed that Larry’s cancer was far more widespread than anticipated and while the cancer was aggressive, the surgery was a remarkable success. There was no evidence that the cancer had spread, no other treatment was required, and, with the help of his Personal Care Team,  Larry was able to recover quickly.

Given how early the cancer was caught and how quickly and aggressively it was treated, the chance of recurrence is small – between 5-10%. Nonetheless, PHM is actively monitoring Larry’s care through regular blood work, molecular testing, and imaging to detect any sign that his cancer has returned as early as possible.  This intensive monitoring far exceeds the typical 6-month imaging scans that are standard of care.

Inspired by the success of his surgery, Larry has taken an active role in his health. Since his surgery, Larry has embraced managing his health and has implemented diet, supplement, and lifestyle changes suggested by his PHM team. These changes support his well-being and could reduce the chance of cancer recurrence.

While Larry’s prognosis is good, his PHM team has continued to investigate treatment options like cancer vaccines and clinical trials to further reduce the risk of recurrence in the future.

Larry’s case is a clear example of how a life-altering disease like cancer can be fought with enough time and the right team by your side.

Larry made an impact on his team as well – his good nature and incredible sense of humor continues to motivate everyone involved in his care. In health, as in life, attitude can work wonders – for both the patient and the caregivers.

About the Authors

Mary Beth Coffin, MSMC, PA-C

Associate Clinical Director | Physician Assistant

Mary Beth is an Associate Clinical Director at Private Health Management. She is board certified through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and has a Master of Clinical Medical Science and Physician Assistant degree from Barry University. She has greater than 15 years of direct patience care experience. At PHM she provides comprehensive care management and clinical guidance for Intensive Case Management members.

David Parker, PhD

Senior Director Research

Dr. Parker has over ten years of biomedical research experience specializing in cellular reprogramming, cancer cell development, and preclinical drug testing. At PHM, Dr. Parker identifies the latest and most effective treatments for our clients, cultivating a deep understanding of the theory and evidence behind these approaches.