Zapping melanoma

April 25, 2011 2:57:26 PM PDT
Cancer concerns continue to bombard the American public, but some stats are simply scarier than others.

Did you know that the U.S. incidence rate of melanoma has doubled in the past 40 years? For the more than 50-thousand projected new cases of melanoma this year alone.

Prostate cancer survivor George Pittman is back in class, and back in the saddle. He's a volunteer math and science tutor for third, fourth and fifth graders, and loves watching little minds grow.

"The elementary school kids are neat because they really want to learn," said Pittman.

Also growing in Pittman's life was malignant melanoma. Doctors cut out four in less than a year.

"I got a little melanoma factory in here. They just keep coming, so, you know, I've got to do something different," said Pittman.

"If you cut it out, it's going to come back, most certainly," said Dr. Vadim Gushchin, MD Mercy Medical Center Baltimore.

Dr. Gushchin treated him with an intense, isolated blast of chemotherapy. Using small catheters, surgeons infused a massive dose of chemo into Pittman's leg alone.

The perfusion took just 30 minutes. After years of advancements, isolated limb infusion is a minimally invasive technique that uses the same principles of regional high-dose chemotherapy but through smaller catheters.

"I was a little set back with it because 'chemotherapy' - that's a scary word," said Pittman.

The benefit of this method is that patients do not get effects of the anticancer treatment in other areas the body.

In a third of cases, all nodules disappear. The old method meant larger incisions and catheters. The new procedure is minimally invasive all around.

"The nodule stopped growing, at least stopped growing for three to four weeks since we did the procedure," said Dr. Gushchin.

Good news for Pittman, who got back to class as fast as he could.

"After the surgery, I really felt pretty good, so I went back and tried to teach for a day," said Pittman.

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