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Janet Shattuck’s story is a reminder that nobody knows your body better than you do. For years, Janet, a long-time Philadelphia resident, experienced debilitating hot flashes. Despite being postmenopausal, her doctor attributed her symptoms, which also included facial sweating, severe headaches and heart palpitations, to menopause. “He really wasn’t listening to me,” she recalled. “It just didn’t feel like what I experienced during menopause," said Janet, who was 61 at the time. "But you know, you don’t question the doctor.”
After managing these often challenging symptoms for nearly three years, Janet went to a pulmonary specialist for an ongoing issue with emphysema, and had a CAT scan. The test revealed a mass on her adrenal gland. Janet's instincts had been right – all the symptoms she’d been experiencing had nothing to do with menopause and everything to do with her body's compromised endocrine system.
Janet’s doctor sent her to Colleen Veloski, MD, FACE, an endocrinologist, now at Fox Chase Cancer Center, who was working at Temple University Hospital at the time. Although she was fairly confident that the mass was benign, Dr. Veloski performed tests that showed the mass on her adrenal gland was producing adrenaline that was causing her symptoms. She said it was a pheochromocytoma that would have to be removed. She referred Janet to Alexander Kutikov, MD, a urologic surgeon at Fox Chase. Although Dr. Kutikov's primary practice is treating people with cancer, he also sees patients with benign disorders, especially those of the adrenal gland.
“Dr. Kutikov and his entire staff were just wonderful. I felt really comfortable with him doing the surgery.”
“Dr. Kutikov and his entire staff were just wonderful,” she said. “He explained things to me and showed me pictures of what was going to happen on the computer. I felt really comfortable with him doing the surgery.”
Janet had laparoscopic surgery in November 2011 and was relieved to learn that the tumor was indeed benign (non-cancerous). “What a blessing,” she said. “The surgery was like a miracle. My symptoms went away immediately.” Although she did not have a cancer diagnosis, for Janet Shattuck, Fox Chase Cancer Center will always be the place where she got her life back. “I didn’t know that people went to Fox Chase when they didn’t have cancer,” she said. “I feel very lucky to be one of those people.”