Doctors remove 51-pound tumor from New Jersey woman

NEW YORK Tue Jul 3, 2012 7:05pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey surgeons removed a rapidly growing, 51-pound (23-kg) cancerous tumor from a woman who had delayed treatment for more than a month until she became eligible for health insurance, her doctor said on Tuesday.

"She was a skinny lady with a huge belly. I mean it looked like she was literally pregnant with triplets," said Dr. David Dupree, who led the surgery on the 65-year-old woman, at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, New Jersey.

"She was just all belly," he said in describing his first meeting with the patient, a homemaker from nearby Union Beach, New Jersey, who asked to be identified only as Evelyn, her first name.

About six to eight weeks before she showed up at the hospital, Evelyn noticed discomfort in her abdomen and that her normally 120-pound frame was rapidly ballooning. Dupree said she sought medical help on June 4, just days after her 65th birthday, when she would qualify for Medicare, the U.S. healthcare program for seniors.

"The reason she didn't go earlier was because she had no insurance," he said.

By now, she weighed more than 170 pounds, her legs were swollen with trapped blood, she was badly dehydrated, and, scans showed, the tumor - a malignant sarcoma - was crushing her inferior vena cava, one of the main veins returning blood to the heart, and putting her life in danger.

With her body too weakened to be operated on immediately, Dupree scheduled surgery for the following Monday, allowing time for her to become rehydrated and for her blood pressure to be brought under control.

But after she became short of breath on Sunday evening, Dupree brought the surgery forward.

"I knew that she wasn't going to make it through the night," he said.

"Either she goes now or she dies tonight," he recalled thinking.

Opening her up, Dupree and his team found the tumor, which appeared to have originated out of the fatty tissue around her large intestine, had engulfed many of her internal organs, and had to be sliced away "millimeter by millimeter" over the course of the five-hour surgery.

Evelyn was still recovering from the operation in a rehabilitation center on Tuesday, Dupree said. She declined to be interviewed.

Although the immediate threat to her life has passed, she must still see an oncologist about treatment for her cancer, which may not have been completely eradicated by the surgery, and may require chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Dupree said he would advise uninsured patients to see a doctor immediately if they knew they were unwell no matter how near their 65th birthday might be. He said the hospital would have operated on Evelyn regardless of her insurance status, but added he did not know whether doing so would have cost her more money.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (6)
McBob08 wrote:
You can’t call any nation civilized until it has Universal Healthcare. A person should never have to go without needed healthcare just because they can’t afford it. It’s barbaric to hold people’s health and very lives hostage to profits. Timely, necessary healthcare is an internationally-accepted human right, and America has no business calling itself in compliance with human rights until they fully enact government-run healthcare. It’s cheaper for everyone, more cost effective, more effective overall and better regulated than commercial healthcare could ever dream of being.

Seriously, what kind of person doesn’t realize that tacking an imperative to make a profit on top of the cost of healthcare is nothing but a scam?

Jul 05, 2012 7:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
teacher73 wrote:
McBob08, I completely agree with you on that. I think you made good use of the word “hostage” as well. I think our representatives would think differently of our healthcare situation if one of their loved ones was going through this same situation.

Jul 05, 2012 4:46pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AnotherVoyeur wrote:
Newsflash:

1) She delayed treatment “six to eight weeks” from the time she “noticed discomfort in her abdomen”. There is no way a government bureaucracy would have reacted quickly enough to save this woman’s life.

2) If a person has a life threatening health issue the hospital is bound (by a pledge) to treat them. Why do you think the emergency rooms in larger cities are backed up with minor problems that shouldn’t be wasting ER time and space?

If this lady would have trusted the wonderful government to save her, she’s have died before the surgery, probably before seeing a GP to do an innitial check.

Do you really want to trust your life to a government bureaucrat in a cubical somewhere? I prefer to discuss my options, timeline and costs with the Doctor that I picked out to diagnose my problems or let him refer me to a specialist that he trusts.

Jul 05, 2012 12:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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