Beating Cancer with Beads

November 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
More than 1 million people are diagnosed with liver cancer every year, and the majority die within the next 12 months. That's because 90 percent of the patients have tumors that are too large or too complicated for surgery. Now doctors are turning to a powerful treatment that uses tiny glass beads to kill the cancer. The treatment turned out to be a lifesaver for a man who thought he was out of options.If you study the statistics, Doug Waldron shouldn't be here. Doctors told the 73-year-old grandfather his time was up.

"Four to six weeks, I think it was," Doug told Ivanhoe.

"We've been together 40 years, and to me it's not enough time yet," Doug's wife, Denise, told Ivanhoe.

Doug had lung cancer, but that wasn't the main concern. It was the 10-inch cancerous tumor taking over his liver.

"Something like a cantaloupe in his liver," Mary Mulcahy, M.D., an oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill., told Ivanhoe.

Doctors couldn't operate because the tumor was too big. They turned to a treatment called radioembolization. In Doug's case they injected 6 million radioactive microspheres, or glass beads, into the tumor. Each bead, which is smaller than the width of a strand of hair, emits radiation to kill the cancer.

"So really, it is a very high dose of radiation concentrated in a very, very small area," Riad Salem, M.D., an interventional radiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hosptial, told Ivanhoe.

The toxic treatment made Doug sick for a month.

"I knew it going in, that if this did not work, there was nothing more that could be done," Diane said. "It was over."

But then, the scans started to tell a different story. Nearly all of the cancer dissolved and disappeared.

"It's a miracle," Doug said.

Doug also had surgery to remove the lung cancer, and within a year went from his death bed to being cancer-free.

"He's the man of my life," Diane said. "Life wouldn't be worth living without him." "Without her, I don't think I would've made it," Doug said.

Strong treatment ... and an even stronger love that now has more time to grow.

For Doug, radioembolization was a one-time injection that was done as an outpatient procedure. Doctors say it can also be used to shrink a tumor to make a patient eligible for chemo or surgery. The treatment is used mainly for liver and colorectal cancer and tumors of the blood vessels.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
(877) 926-4664

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