Cancer patient left to despair takes a fresh shot at life after surgery

A 68-year-old patient of oral cancer found the ground slipping from under his feet when the hospital where he had received treatment for over a year told the family during the ongoing pandemic that the cancer had reached Stage IV, that is, reached his lungs, and nothing could be done. But as a last ditch effort, the family contacted Apollo Gleneagles, where the cancer was actually found to be still Stage II and the patient successfully operated upon.
Arup Kumar Dutta, 68, who had all but given up on life a month ago, went home just seven days after a surgery that involved complete removal of the lower jaw and reconstruction with muscles from the chest. The cancer surgery was itself extremely complex because the affected jaw had been already subjected to all the modalities of cancer treatment – surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Yet the seven-hour-surgery called Commando surgery (removal of right side of lower jaw along with inner lining of the cheek with radical neck dissection) with plastic reconstruction was performed without a glitch on July 14, 2020.
“This salvaging surgery that was performed by us this time in the background of the previous surgery, chemo and radiation received by the patient, posing several difficulties. Very often such cases of perioperative morbidity lead to reconstruction failure, which results in prolonged hospital stay and medical expenses,” said Dr. Suvadip Chakrabarti, consultant, onco-surgeon, Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, Kolkata.
The reconstruction was done by Dr. Saptarshi Bhattacharya, consultant, plastic surgeon at Apollo Gleneagles.
“First we needed confirmation that the problem in the chest of the patient that had been picked up the PET CT at the other hospital was not cancerous. We were able to do that thanks to the advanced procedure called EBUS (Endo Bronchial Ultra Sound) which was performed by Dr. Debraj Jash, consultant pulmonologist, AGHL. It was a concerted effort that saved the patient and that could happen only at a centre like Apollo, which has both the infrastructure and the trained manpower to take on such cases,” said Dr. Chakrabarti.
The patient’s daughter, Moumita Panja, said the pain in her father’s jaw had subsided. He used to sit with a hot water flask and kettle all the time so that he could compress the jaw as painkillers would not help. But after the surgery he does not need them.
According to Ms. Panja, her father used to be addicted to pan with zarda and when the cancer first showed up in June 2019, he had undergone surgery by a plastic surgeon at a reputed Kolkata hospital. This was followed by chemotherapy and radiation. But from December 2019, he started feeling the old pain in his jaw again but they could finally get a prescribed PET CT done for confirmation of the recurrence of the cancer only in March 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic led to further delays in treatment and in June when the pain got unbearable, the threating doctor told him that the PET CT has revealed that the cancer had spread to his lungs and basically that he had lost the battle with cancer, Ms. Panja said.
“We had been shattered to hear this but we were not ready to give up. We contacted Apollo Gleneagles upon a recommendation. I am glad we did because the surgery has been completed. It was the first step in our second fight with the disease and radiation and chemotherapy will start in August,” the daughter added.

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