PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A cancer diagnosis is never a good thing, but pancreatic cancer is especially bad.
The chances of surviving it aren’t great, but there’s a new treatment that’s offering hope.
Leslie Wineberg exercised every day, maintained her weight and took good care of herself.
When she developed abdominal pain and couldn’t eat, she saw her doctor right away.
A CT scan and MRI showed the problem. It was cancer of the pancreas, a gland just under the stomach important to digestion and nutrient processing. The tumor was tangled in the blood vessels, and she was told it was inoperable.
The diagnosis brought her to her knees.
“I went straight to my church and was anointed. And I prayed that God would go before me in every step, and that he would give me the miracle that I needed. And that he would direct me to the best care,” Wineberg said.
Wineberg was treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Patients may do well at first, but generally, the cancer will become resistant to the chemo, and the disease progresses or spreads.
Even with chemo and radiation, life expectancy is only six months to a year.
With no other options to fight the locally advanced cancer, her doctors ended up sending her for a new procedure called irreversible electroporation.
Dr. Suzanne Schiffman trained with the doctor who developed the technique, which has only been done on several hundred patients.
“They were actually able to increase survival to two years in some patients,” Dr. Schiffman said.
The doctors use small incisions and ultrasound guidance to target the tumor.
“We place these long needle probes to bracket the tumor. The probes give very high voltage, high current pulses, and that effectively causes the tumor cells to develop pores. They actually undergo cell death,” Dr. Schiffman said.
This can be done along with other treatments, and with tumors close to blood vessels. It’s best with tumors smaller than 4 centimeters and in young, otherwise healthy patients. It’s not for people with heart problems, since the high voltage pulses can cause cardiac complications.
“It was a new procedure, and she was very frank with me, that I would be the first candidate for the procedure, and that was very frightening,” Wineberg said.
Wineberg had her procedure in April.
“I’m doing great,” she said.
Even so, she’s cautious.
“There is that chance my cancer can return,” she said.
Most of all, she’s grateful.
“It has bought me time. Time that we all take for granted. And I have every reason now to appreciate every minute of every day,” she said. “It was hope that I never had.”