Johns Hopkins Health - Gut Instinct
Issue No. 24
Gut InstinctDate: April 1, 2014
When Minan Corby knew something wasn’t quite right with her stomach, she saw a doctor. It may have saved her life
I thought I was in pretty good shape, especially at age 63.
I’ve had some problems with acid reflux, but in 2012 the reflux got worse, even with medication. After I ate I’d get so bloated that I felt pregnant. When I started to have sharp pains in my stomach, I knew something was wrong. That’s when I asked my doctor to send me for testing.
Blood work showed that I had an infection of Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria that causes ulcers. But even after treatment the pain didn’t go away, so I had an endoscopy. When they found a tumor, they took a biopsy. Then they told me I had stomach cancer.
I was going to have surgery near my home in Pennsylvania, where my husband and I own an apparel manufacturing business. But my two daughters and I weren’t happy with the consultation, so they did some homework. When their friends said I should go to Johns Hopkins, I knew there was no need to search anymore.
My oncologist at home agreed and collaborated with Mark Duncan, M.D., my surgical oncologist at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Duncan recommended what he calls “sandwiching”: chemotherapy, then surgery, followed by more chemotherapy. I was able to do my chemotherapy near home and only had to be at Johns Hopkins for the surgery.
Dr. Duncan removed 80 percent of my stomach at the end of March 2013, and I finished the last of my chemo in August. I had a CT scan in October, and I was cancer-free. Dr. Duncan did well. I feel very good now. Because my stomach is smaller now, I eat smaller portions more often. I also try to maintain a healthy life.
Especially for people like me who are Korean and are at higher risk for stomach cancer, it’s important to be proactive. Don’t rely too heavily on over-the-counter medications to relieve discomfort, and don’t wait too long to seek medical advice. If something doesn’t feel right, have it checked out.
An International Issue
Stomach cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide, although it is less common in the U.S.
Rates of stomach cancer in Korea and Japan—and in Korean Americans and Japanese Americans—are significantly higher than for people of other countries and backgrounds, says Mark Duncan, M.D., chief of surgical oncology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
This increased risk is partly genetic and is also related to Asian diets high in smoked foods and preserved fish. Other risk factors include gastric ulcers, previous stomach surgeries and the presence of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.