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Surgeons expertly diagnose and treat rare tumor

After Duane Bunton was diagnosed with an extremely rare tumor, Loyola physicians explained the benefits and risks of different treatment options to him and his wife, Cathy.

Patient helped by minimally invasive brain surgery

Duane Bunton became a Loyola patient after seeing several specialists in his hometown of Rockford. His local doctors couldn’t determine the cause of Duane’s headaches, breathing troubles and frequent nose bleeds, so they referred him to the Loyola skull base and sinus cancer team.

“Loyola is an academic medical center and has very well-trained physicians. It helped put me at ease,” Duane said. “They knew right away I didn’t have a sinus infection or asthma. I had an unusual tumor in my nasal cavity.”

Tumors in the nasal cavity are very rare, but one of the symptoms of a sinus tumor is a sinus infection that doesn’t go away after several months of treatment.

Loyola University Medical Center (Loyola) is one of the few medical centers that can diagnose and treat cancerous and non-cancerous tumors in a minimally invasive way that avoids disfiguring a person’s face and offers the best chances for successful outcomes. Loyola is well known for its ability to help people with tumors inside the skull, especially those that other hospitals consider too large or too difficult to remove.

“We have a team of experienced and skilled surgeons,” said Vikram Prabhu, MD, medical director, neurosurgery, Loyola. “We work with radiation and medical oncologists in a very cohesive team and carefully consult each other before deciding on a treatment plan.”

“We will never force a particular approach on a patient,” said Kevin Welch, MD, skull base and sinus cancer specialist at Loyola. “Instead, we discuss all options so that the patient and family understand why we’re making a recommendation. If surgery is not in their best interest, we work together to find the best alternatives. The patient’s desires and needs are always our primary concern. Our combined expertise is vast, and we are always able to draw upon our experience, no matter what we are facing.”

Duane’s tumor was extremely rare – only about 1,000 cases have been identified since it was first recognized in the 1920s. After explaining the benefits and risks of different treatment options to Duane and his wife, Cathy, everyone agreed that Duane would have a minimally invasive operation, followed by radiation treatments to minimize the risk of the cancer coming back.

Using an endoscope (a tiny camera and a light source) and surgical instruments inserted through Duane’s nose, the team removed the tumor without damaging healthy brain tissue or disfiguring his face. The endoscopic approach also shortened Duane’s hospital stay and recovery time compared to traditional, “open” surgery.

Duane needed radiation treatments, which Loyola specialists designed for his individual case. Treatments were administered at Swedish American Hospital in Rockford, as that was more convenient for Duane.

“It complicates things to have a patient receive follow-up care elsewhere, but it was the best option for Duane and Cathy,” Dr. Welch said. “In these instances, everyone works hard to coordinate care. Phone calls, letters and exchanges of notes help everyone stay informed.”

Duane received radiation in the spring of 2010, a few months after his minimally invasive surgery. Nearly three years later, and now 65 years old, Duane comes to Loyola a few times a year for follow-up visits. At home he enjoys his antique cars and outdoor railroads in his garden.

Patients from throughout the region come to Loyola for advanced, minimally invasive surgeries for skull base and sinus cancers. This is an area where Loyola has dedicated tremendous resources and adopted a team-centric approach that has proved very beneficial to patients.

For more information, visit LoyolaMedicine.org/SkullBase, or to schedule an appointment with a Loyola physician, call (888) LUHS-888 (888-584-7888).

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Jim Ritter
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