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Local woman survives rare cancer thanks to dramatic surgery and chemo combo

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After surviving a rare form of cancer, a local woman wants to share the word about her unique treatment.{ } (KOMO News){ }

SEATTLE -- After surviving a rare form of cancer, a local woman wants to share the word about her unique treatment.

She's getting help from the ABC show, The Good Doctor. A story arc on Monday night focuses on the type of surgery that saved her life. It's called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC.

When she was 49 years old, Tauna Langridge looked like she was about to give birth. But she was actually about to have surgery to remove the basketball sized tumor that made her look pregnant. She thought it was benign.

"Unfortunately when I woke up, I realized that, they told me it was appendix cancer," Langridge said. "And they had to take several organs out."

Within a year, Tauna's cancer was back. That's when she met Dr. Evan Ong at Swedish Medical Center.

He told her about HIPEC, an aggressive treatment that involves multiple surgeons removing diseased organs.

Still on the operating table, the patient then has 90 minutes of chemotherapy, heated to about 105 degrees. The chemo drugs are circulated through the abdominal cavity then removed.

"You are treating the disease at the site," Dr. Ong said. "So as opposed to intravenous chemotherapy, where you are giving the chemotherapy throughout the entire body, you're only delivering the chemotherapy within the abdominal cavity. The abdominal cavity is relatively impermeable. So you can give much higher doses of chemotherapy than you would be able to when giving systemic chemotherapy."

It's a complex procedure with a lengthy recovery.

Over the course of two surgeries, Langridge had to have her cervix, ovaries, uterus, spleen, part of her diaphragm, part of her liver, gall bladder, colon, part of her bowel, omentum, part of her pancreas, and her appendix removed.

While it is a long list, it was necessary to remove diseased organs.

Dr. Ong explained, "while all organs have a function (except for perhaps the appendix), the essential organs are mostly related to digestion, absorption and metabolism. Therefore, the liver and the small intestine are probably most essential, but patients can live with removal of some (not all) of these organs. However it is important to distinguish survival from quality of life. A person can live with many organs removed from the abdominal cavity, but it is important that there is discussion between the patient and the physician about the permanent symptoms when undergoing these types of major organ resections."

Langridge had a heart attack during one smaller procedure - flat lined - and was revived. Several times she has escaped what felt like certain death.

"I've made it four years, going on four years since that last surgery and I'm feeling good," she said. "It's bought me years of living life."

Both Langridge and Ong were happy to hear The Good Doctor would highlight HIPEC.

"It will increase awareness, so patients will seek out, 'hey I have this problem. Is that therapy fit for me?'" Ong said.

Swedish Medical Center is the only institution in the Pacific Northwest offering HIPEC. Patients come from all over to see him. Ong estimates he sees around 200 people a year with interest in HIPEC. He ends up performing 45-50 procedures annually. On the heels of a study showing success in ovarian cancer, Ong said he sees growing interest from gynecologist oncologists.


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