Shirley Danner

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Kidney Cancer Treatment

Kidney Cancer Patient Stories

Shirley Danner

Forty-five days. That's how long it took from the moment in February 2011 that Shirley Danner, who was 73, felt a lump on her side when she rolled over in bed to the day her cancerous kidney was removed at Fox Chase Cancer Center. "It all happened so fast," said Shirley, who lives in Willow Street, Pennsylvania, about two hours from the Fox Chase campus.

"I'd been feeling absolutely fine," recalled the retired third grade teacher. "But when I felt a lump, I immediately called my doctor." That same day she had an ultrasound. The test showed a tumor in her kidney, raising Shirley's first question. "I wanted to know if I'd have to lose a kidney," she said. "The answer was yes."

Shirley's urologist recommended the highly experienced urologic surgical team at Fox Chase.

A CAT scan was performed the following day that confirmed the diagnosis. Shirley's doctor sent her to a local urologist. He explained that in the best-case scenario, the disease was confined to one kidney. There was also a possibility that the disease had spread through the vena cava, part of the arterial system that that transports blood to and from the kidneys.

Shirley's urologist recommended Fox Chase Cancer Center, where the urologic oncology team has performed thousands of laparoscopic nephrectomies, a minimally invasive procedure to remove the kidney, even in patients who may not be candidates for laparoscopic surgery at other centers. For patients who are not candidates for kidney-sparing procedures, this surgical approach, performed through small incisions, results in less pain and scarring than traditional, or open, surgery, and recovery time is faster. In late March 2011, Shirley met with Alexander Kutikov MD, the team's attending surgeon.

"Dr. Kutikov was not only very professional, but he conveyed a feeling of caring about me as a person."

"From the beginning, I learned that Dr. Kutikov was not only very professional, but he conveyed a feeling of caring about me as a person," said Shirley. "He was wonderful. I had a long list of questions, but by the end of the consultation, he'd answered them all before I could even ask them. Every single person in his group took such good care of me."

Shirley appreciated that Dr. Kutikov was able to find a window of time in his surgical schedule to do the procedure just two weeks later, in early April. The laparoscopic surgery was a success. The cancerous kidney was removed laparoscopically, and within a few days Shirley was recovering in the comfort of her own home. The third night home from the hospital, the phone rang at 8:45 p.m. "It was Dr. Kutikov. He called to tell me that the pathology report looked great, and I did not require further treatment. It was such a relief. I finally got a good night's sleep!"

"What could have been a life-changing experience for me was just a 'bump in the road' thanks to Dr. Kutikov and Fox Chase," said Shirley. "Dr. Kutikov did everything possible to shorten my period of anxiety," she said. "I'm so grateful for that. Being a teacher for so many years, the best way I can say it is that Dr. Kutikov is an A+ doctor and an A+ human being."