Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Wayne Rosberg, Cancer Survivor
That’s how Wayne Rosberg describes his timely cancer diagnosis.
Wayne had just started a business in Jeffersonville when he decided to have a colonoscopy at age 48 — two years before the recommended age for this procedure.
That decision may be the reason Wayne is alive today: the colonoscopy and a follow-up biopsy revealed a malignant tumor in his colon.
A week after the colonoscopy, his Fletcher Allen colo-rectal surgeon performed a right partial colectomy, removing one-third of Wayne’s colon. Because it appeared that the cancer had not spread — no lymph nodes were involved—Wayne was told he would not need chemotherapy.
Over the next few weeks, Wayne had regular computerized tomography (CT) scans, which use x-rays to make detailed pictures of structures in the body; and Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) blood tests, a tumor marker which can help monitor response to therapy. The CT scans and regular CEA blood testing provide the highest level of surveillance in cases like Wayne’s.
A CT scan showed a spot on Wayne’s liver.
Wayne met with two more Fletcher Allen members of the colon and rectal surgery team, a surgical oncologist with special expertise in liver surgery, and a medical oncologist with the Vermont Center for Cancer Medicine and Blood Disorders.
Because it seemed that Wayne had only a single tumor in the liver, the medical and surgical oncology team felt it was reasonable to remove the tumor, with chemotherapy to follow.
His patient navigator, helped guide Wayne through the experience as he met with a team of specialists to decide the course of his treatment.
“Having a special nurse help me through this period really made me feel that I was being cared for — not just being treated for cancer,” says Wayne.
The surgical oncologist removed about one-quarter of Wayne’s liver, where the tumor was located.
Following a recovery period of about one month, Wayne began chemotherapy under the care of the medical oncologist.
Then Wayne’s CEA levels rose, and three new spots appeared in his liver, two on the right and one on the left side.
For the next few months, Wayne had more chemotherapy, using newer and more powerful drugs. The tumors began to shrink and his CEA levels began to fall, but his doctors knew that the tumor would eventually have to be removed.
A positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which uses a radioactive substance to look for disease, confirmed that Wayne’s tumors were located only in the liver.
His surgical oncologist then proposed a novel technique, known as preoperative portal vein embolization. This technique is performed by only a few hospitals in New England.
Using this technique, interventional radiologist blocked off the majority of blood flow to the right side of Wayne’s liver, where the major tumor was located. This would allow the left side of the liver to grow in the weeks before surgery.
Wayne became Fletcher Allen’s first patient to undergo this highly specialized and innovative procedure.
Once a follow-up CT scan showed growth of the left side of the liver, his surgeon teamed with anesthesiologist and removed the entire right half of the liver. They also performed a radiofrequency ablation, inserting a needle into the single tumor on the left side, causing it to burn away.
Today, Wayne is cancer-free.
“It started out with a lucky decision,” he says, “but in the end it was about the physicians who provided me with the highest level of care, and the staff who showed me that they genuinely cared about me as a person. They made me feel that I was going to be okay.”