Dennis Sloan

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Margaret von Mehren, MD

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) Patient Stories, Liver Cancer (Bile Duct Cancer) Patient Stories

Dennis Sloan

Dennis Sloan is living proof that an annual physical is a good idea. With no symptoms, he had an annual check-up in 2007 at the age of 47. He was pleased to report that he had successfully completed a half marathon and felt great. But during the exam, his doctor felt something suspicious in his abdomen. He sent Dennis for a CAT Scan which uncovered a mass in his abdomen. A respiratory therapist and a clinical application specialist for a medical device company, Dennis spent a lot of time around hospitals and doctors. So when his doctor sent him to surgical oncologist who wanted to see him the next day, he knew it was serious.

“The fact that I felt nothing was the most frightening part of this whole thing,” he said. “I had no bloating, discomfort or pain.” Although the mass was large, approximately 13-15 centimeters, it was growing into the retroperitoneum in his abdominal cavity, so he felt nothing.  The oncologist recommended surgery right away but Dennis decided to get a second opinion at Fox Chase Cancer Center. He made an appointment with James C. Watson, MD, a surgical oncologist who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers. Dr. Watson considered Dennis's test results and concurred with a recommendation for surgery. Dennis opted to have surgery at his local hospital in November 2007. Although the tumor was successfully removed, a follow up CAT Scan revealed that the tumor had metastasized to his liver. 

"I knew it was time to go to Fox Chase."

“My local medical oncologist had only seen five cases like mine," admitted Dennis. "I knew it was time to go to Fox Chase."

Dennis met with Margaret von Mehren, MD, a medical oncologist specializing in treating patients with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST). After reviewing Dennis’ test results and medical history, Dr. von Mehren met with him to discuss his diagnosis and treatment options. “I had such a comfort level with Dr. von Mehren." She explained that he could begin a course of chemotherapy treatment using Gleevec, a drug that has been effective in treating GIST. If the tumor is responsive, the next step would be laparoscopic surgery. Fortunately,  Dennis tolerated the chemotherapy and the tumor did shrink. He opted to have it removed in November 2008. 

"Dr. von Mehren inspires so much confidence."

"Dr. von Mehren is very bright. She inspires so much confidence, from both a clinical and research standpoint.  She respects me not just a patient, but as someone with a little more than the average person’s understanding of medicine. She never talks down to me. I feel comfortable with her. The entire staff is outstanding.”

To keep his tumor under control, Dennis will remain on Gleevec indefinitely. “Nobody wants cancer, but I feel very lucky that mine is treatable with both surgery and this miracle drug.  It can always come back, but I don’t think about it until it’s time for my CAT scan. I get on with my life.”