Surgical Teamwork Solves Complex Case
The first surgery Eric Grogan, M.D., and Matthew McGirt, M.D., performed together lasted 18 hours. Grogan, a thoracic surgeon, carefully cut away the baseball-sized lung tumor that had spread to Ronald Denton’s chest cavity.
After they worked together to remove three vertebrae that the tumor had invaded, McGirt, a neurosurgeon, rebuilt them.
For Denton, their teamwork equaled a greater chance at survival.
“This opens up a whole new world of treatment in Tennessee for this disease. Having the multidisciplinary team we currently have gives patients a potentially curative option that didn’t exist before,” McGirt said.
The standard of care for stage III lung cancer like Denton’s is usually radiation and chemotherapy to try to stop the tumor’s growth. But for patients whose tumors have not spread to other vital organs, removing the tumor can increase survival rates.
“Without our multidisciplinary team, surgical cure is not an option. Mr. Denton’s five-year survival would have been about 10-15 percent with a high rate of local recurrence and possible paralysis. Now, he has a 20-40 percent, five-year survival,” Grogan said.
Denton, 64, from Bowling Green, Ky., served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam era and retired after 33 years with Eastman Kodak.
With the tumor removed, Denton is now having chemotherapy and radiation to ensure all cancer cells are killed. He still has back pain and must wear a brace, but doesn’t regret choosing surgery.
“I had great confidence in my doctors. I didn’t know what would happen, but I put it into God’s hands because I’m a man of faith,” he said. “I’d rather I didn’t have this, but God doesn’t always do things the way we want.”