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Johns Hopkins Health - Not Just Life, but Quality of Life

Fall 2012
Issue No. 18

Not Just Life, but Quality of Life

Date: October 24, 2012

Ilana Laitman traveled from Israel to find the right expertise to treat her jaw tumor


I’ve been on a long journey since learning in 2007 that I had an ameloblastoma—a tumor on my jaw. But I’m thankful my journey brought me to Johns Hopkins, where they understood that preserving my quality of life was just as important as saving my life.

Ameloblastomas are benign but aggressive. They can destroy everything where they grow, including the brain, so they must be removed.

I had two surgeries in Israel, where I live, but doctors there were not able to remove the tumor by operating from inside my mouth.

Surgeons would have to operate from the outside to remove the entire tumor, which involved removing part of my jaw and TMJ [temporomandibular joint]. The doctors I talked to only seemed to care that I would have basic functionality, not that I would be disfigured. But I cared very much. As a lawyer, a public activist, an active athlete, and a woman who is still dating and interested in establishing a family, my image and my looks are very important to me.

No one in Israel, or anywhere else I looked, could promise me that I would not have damage to my jaw or lose part of my tongue. Not being able to speak clearly or look presentable would be devastating to my career and my life.

My journey ended at Johns Hopkins, where they use a team approach that combines the tumor removal with reconstruction. They used bone from my leg [fibula] to reconstruct my jaw, and you can’t even see a scar except the one on my leg.

I speak and look as I did before, and just four months after my surgery I went on a first date and started swimming training. Since the surgery, I feel as if I have a second chance at my life—and I believe that everything is possible.

A Unique Level of Expertise
Ilana Laitman researched medical centers worldwide before deciding to have her tumor removal and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins.

Collaboration among specialists, including Wayne Koch, M.D., who directs the Head and Neck Cancer Center, and Patrick Byrne, M.D., director of the Center for Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, makes procedures like the one performed on Laitman possible.

Johns Hopkins is among the busiest medical centers that perform microvascular facial plastic and reconstructive surgery weekly.

For more information, appointments or consultations, call 877-546-1872.