‘Inoperable’ cancer operable in Nebraska
Cancer turned Ruth Gerdes into a crusader.
Unsatisfied with a diagnosis that would have meant waiting for the slow-growing carcinoid cancer tumors on her liver to take her life, she turned to The Nebraska Medical Center, the teaching hospital of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
It was there the Auburn, Neb., insurance agent and University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduate consulted with a multidisciplinary team of physicians, including Jean Botha, M.D., a transplant surgeon and associate professor at UNMC.
Taking advantage of the liver’s ability to regenerate, Botha removed the tumors on the left lobe of the liver. Three months later, after the left lobe re-grew without the tumors, he operated on the right lobe. When it was over, the 22 tumors on her liver were gone.
Since recovering, Gerdes has become a national advocate for the liver resection technique that helped save her life—a surgery believed to be the first of its kind performed in the country. Because of interest in this type of care, the medical center opened a carcinoid cancer clinic.
“People all over the world find my name online,” Gerdes said. “Many of them have been told they’re inoperable, just as I was. What’s so exciting about this clinic is it will be an opportunity for them to learn about options for treatment.”
Botha said he is stunned by the number of people who now contact the clinic about this disease.
“I suspect there’s more to it; that the prevalence of the disease is greater than we thought,” he said. “That’s the
ground work for some of our research studies.”
With support from gifts to the University of Nebraska Foundation, the clinic is able to take on this research role by hiring a research nurse who works closely with the multidisciplinary physicians.
“Our hope is to turn this disease away from being a medical curiosity to being something that is curable,” Botha said.
The carcinoid clinic operates the last Friday of each month. Patients interested in contacting the clinic may call 1-800-401-4444.
To learn more about Ruth Gerdes’ story, read her personal essay “Hepatobiliary Surgery: It is Possible.”
To support carcinoid cancer research and patient outreach and education give to the Carcinoid Development Fund.