As tough as it was when he was going through it, initial surgery at an outside hospital, followed by a course of chemotherapy, were not enough to combat Dennis Trego’s testicular cancer. He arrived at Fox Chase for a second opinion in 2011 - and was offered life-saving surgery.
In November 2010, 61-year-old Dennis Trego experienced an abnormal swelling in his right testicle. He sought medical attention right away and an ultrasound was ordered. Unfortunately, the results were inconclusive. Additional testing, including blood work, revealed testicular cancer.
"I guess I didn't realize how serious it was."
“At the time I really wasn’t scared,” said the Royersford resident. “I guess I didn’t realize how serious it was.” In January 2011, Dennis underwent surgery at a local hospital to remove the tumor. He figured that was the end of his journey.
“I was home that night and felt pretty good,” he recalled. But recovery was slower than he anticipated and he experienced complications. As a result, Dennis, a truck driver, was out of work for close to 10 months.
The following month, Dennis was on his way to Florida with family when he got a call from his local oncologist. Dennis learned the bad news; the cancer had spread, or metastasized, to lymph nodes in his chest. His doctor recommended a 12-week course of chemotherapy to treat the new tumors. “The chemotherapy was rough,” admitted Dennis, who lost his appetite and dropped weight. “I barely made it to my son’s wedding.” He finished the chemotherapy in May 2011, and was under the assumption that treatment was complete. A CAT scan just one month later revealed more cancer.
"My doctor recommended I go to Fox Chase Cancer Center."
There was evidence of suspicious cells near his vena cava. Dennis was advised by his oncologist that there was a 20 to 25 percent chance that it was cancer. “I felt that was too high,” shared Dennis, who wanted a second opinion. “My doctor recommended I go to Fox Chase Cancer Center.”
In July 2011, Dennis made an appointment to meet two Fox Chase physicians who specialize in treating patients with genitourinary cancers, including testicular cancer. He met Alexander Kutikov MD, a urologic surgical oncologist and Gary R. Hudes, MD, a medical oncologist. “Dr. Kutikov and Dr. Hudes were so professional, so nice, so smart. Dr. Kutikov didn’t pretend that the surgery was going to be a picnic, but he had performed many of these operations and had an excellent track record.”
“I had come so far and been through so much, I had to stay the course,” said Dennis. Dr. Kutikov performed the surgery, a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection, on August 7, 2011. During the procedure, Dr. Kutikov lifted out Dennis’ intestines to reach any cancerous lymph nodes and returning them to their proper place. Following the complex surgery, Dennis was moved to the intensive care unit to recover.
Although a typical post-surgery hospital stay can be as long as three weeks, Dennis rebounded beautifully. He was discharged to return home in just under a week. “The nurses were so positive and offered so much encouragement,” he recalled. “I was motivated to get home and rebuild my strength.”
"I think the world of Dr. Kutikov's skills as a doctor and surgeon – yet he's probably the most humble medical professional I have ever met."
Dr. Kutikov called Dennis at home to discuss the results of his surgery, which did indeed reveal some suspicious activity as was suspected. “It meant so much to me that he called to check on how I was doing,” Dennis said. “I think the world of Dr. Kutikov's skills as a doctor and surgeon – yet he’s probably the most humble medical professional I have ever met.”
Dennis visits Fox Chase every three months for tests and all signs point to a full recovery. “I had complete confidence in my doctors,” he recalled. “It was the best decision we ever made to go to Fox Chase.”