MAYWOOD, Ill. -- The cancerous tumor in Marcus Muhich's liver weighed 8 pounds and was nearly a foot across.
Doctors at three major academic medical centers in the Midwest told Muhich his high-grade tumor was inoperable.
Then he was referred to Dr. Margo Shoup, chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at Loyola University Medical Center. Shoup was able to remove the entire tumor, and, two years later, Muhich remains cancer-free.
"Dr. Shoup is my miracle worker," he said.
Muhich learned he had cancer after visiting a cardiologist for a heart rhythm disorder. The tumor had been pressing against his vena cava, the largest vein in the body. This restricted blood flow to the heart, causing an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. While examining Muhich, the cardiologist felt the growth. This finding eventually led to the diagnosis of a rare cancer called hepatic sarcoma.
Shoup determined that, despite its size, the tumor was still contained and had not metastasized. During a delicate, five-hour operation, she removed the tumor. There was a significant risk of severe bleeding if the vena cava ruptured during the procedure. Severe bleeding also could erupt from the liver or from the tumor itself.
But there were no major complications. Muhich fully recovered and his heart rhythm has returned to normal.
"The recovery was not difficult at all," Muhich said. "It hurt very little."
The highest risk of recurrence for hepatic sarcomas occurs during the first two years. "Since he has reached the two-year point without a recurrence, his prognosis is excellent," Shoup said.
Surgical oncologists at Loyola are high-volume surgeons who do very complex tumors. Their surgical outcomes are excellent.
Surgical oncologic care at Loyola encompasses a wide range of malignancies, including those of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, biliary system, breast, esophagus, melanoma and soft tissue sarcoma. Patients’ casaes are discussed in a tumor board that includes several experts in various fields of oncology. Minimally invasive approaches to surgery are offered in many cases. Also offered are microwave ablation of the liver and high-dose radiation to the pancreas.
Muhich's sister, Sarita Gilligan, said he received advanced and compassionate care.
"Loyola is a faith-based hospital," Gilligan noted. "We truly believe God sent us there."