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Glenna’s Story: Cancer Free, With Expert Care Close to Home

Staff WriterHealth, RSS-Health

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When Glenna Matthews was rushed to the hospital with severe gastrointestinal symptoms and abdominal pain, she never suspected to hear the word “cancer” in her diagnosis.

Her tests confirmed an early stage endometrial cancer originating in the lining of her uterus. “I couldn’t believe it,” Matthews said. “I have been a nurse for more than 40 years and never suspected I had cancer. I was devastated.”

Then Matthews met gynecologic oncologist Sudeshna Chatterjee-Paer, a member of the multidisciplinary team of specialists who treat women with gynecological cancers at ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

“We are the only hospital in Delaware to offer an advanced level of gynecologic oncology care that is comparable to any major institution in the country,” said Chatterjee-Paer.

“Our highly trained teams work in a collegial and collaborative environment using the most advanced tools and technologies available in our field, and this translates into the best possible outcomes for our patients,” she said.

Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer affecting women’s reproductive organs in the United States. For Black women and Latinas, the cancer can be more aggressive and more deadly.

At their meeting, Chatterjee-Paer explained in detail, complete with drawings, that Matthews would need a total hysterectomy to remove her cancer along with her reproductive organs and affected lymph nodes. Because her cancer was found early, Matthews would be a good candidate for minimally invasive robotic surgery.

“I was totally blown away yet fascinated at the same time with the concept of robotic technology to treat my cancer right here near home,” Matthews said. “I walked into the exam room feeling depressed and anxious, but I left there feeling more at ease and confident that I was going to get the very best care available.”

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                                                        Glenna Matthews was “blown away” that robotic technology could help treat her cancer, right near home.

Patients like Matthews who come to ChristianaCare for surgery benefit from a long track record of national recognition for outstanding quality and safety.

Chatterjee-Paer and the gynecological oncology team are experts in minimally invasive, laparoscopic and robotic surgical techniques. She performed Matthews’ surgery through only a few small cuts in her abdomen using finely crafted robotic instruments.

ChristianaCare is the primary site in Delaware and surrounding areas offering IVB as an outpatient procedure.

“We control the robot to do everything our hands would do but with greater precision,” Chatterjee-Paer explained. “With the Da Vinci robotic system, we also have better visualization of the operating field. The 3D magnification allows us to see fine details with remarkable clarity that is better than the naked eye alone.”

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Celebrating a cancer-free outcome.

With robotic surgery, smaller incisions and precise movements mean less trauma, less pain for patients and less bleeding, reducing the need for blood transfusions as well as the risk of infection. Patients spend less time in the hospital and can return to normal activities much sooner. Matthews went home the same day with minimal pain and only small bandages for dressing.

Following surgery, Matthews’ team recommended three follow-up treatments with a type of internal radiation called intravaginal brachytherapy or IVB to help prevent any cancer recurrences. IVB delivers radiation to localized areas in the vagina safely and precisely in just a few minutes without harming surrounding healthy tissues and organs.

ChristianaCare is the primary site in Delaware and surrounding areas offering IVB as an outpatient procedure.

A year and half later, Matthews is cancer-free.

“Dr. Chatterjee has to be the most wonderful doctor on the planet,” she said.

Robots may have helped but, as Matthews said, “the up-to-date knowledge and warm, affirming care from my entire team was personal.”

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