Donna Beatrice, 63, ignored the bleeding for about four months.
“I kind of stalled,” she says.
But after her gynecologist, Stephen Lakner, M.D., noticed the spotting at her yearly exam, things starting moving very quickly for the Gaithersburg resident.
“I was concerned because postmenopausal bleeding can be a sign of cancer of the uterus,” Dr. Lakner says. “A biopsy showed endometrial cancer, which is cancer in the lining of the uterus.”
Dr. Lakner brought in one of the gynecologic oncology experts at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, G. Scott Rose, M.D. Just a few days later, the two physicians jointly performed Beatrice’s total laparoscopic hysterectomy with lymph node dissection.
“Cancer is such a loaded word,” Beatrice says. “But I totally trusted Dr. Lakner and Dr. Rose. I trust Shady Grove.”
The U.S. history middle school teacher notes her coordination of care and the compassionate approach of the entire care team.
“Everyone was so efficient and thoughtful, from reception to the lab to the doctors, nurses and techs,” she says. “In the operating room, the team explained everything about the procedure, so there was no fear factor. They took it upon themselves to really make me feel at ease. One of the techs even held my hand before I went under the anesthesia.”
Laparoscopic surgery, including the robotic da Vinci surgical system, is available at both Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. The minimally invasive approach allows for smaller incisions, which means faster recovery times and less discomfort for patients.
“Minimally invasive surgical techniques for removal of the uterus, tubes, ovaries and lymph nodes, via a conventional laparoscopic or roboticassisted procedure, is the most successful and least invasive treatment for removing a gynecological cancer, as long as it has not spread beyond the uterine lining,” Dr. Rose explains.
In Beatrice’s case, the cancer had not spread, so there was no need for chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Beatrice will, however, maintain regular follow-up appointments with both Dr. Rose and Dr. Lakner.
“Women should have annual routine checkups,” Dr. Lakner says.
“Postmenopausal women in particular should be vigilant about any abnormal bleeding, abdominal pain or unusual discharge.”
Though it was an “unnerving six weeks” for Beatrice, she now says, “I’m very optimistic. I can focus on work and not this health scare. I can say it in the past tense: I had uterine cancer.”
Whole-Person Cancer Care
Visit www.yourcancerteam.com to learn about the new Aquilino Cancer Center, which opens in 2013, and how the cancer care team at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital provides comprehensive, coordinated cancer care.