Jefferson University Hospitals

Early Diagnosis Makes the Difference for Bill

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Pancreatic Tumor - Bill

"It was reassuring to see such evidence of Dr. Yeo's reputation and track record"

Even though he was symptom-free, Bill West had some cause for concern about his health. This 43-year-old electrical engineer had lost his fraternal twin brother to a rare form of cancer. "Watching my brother die was a painful experience, but it proved to be the catalyst which drove me to get tested," Bill explains. Initially, his doctors did not feel that tests were medically necessary. "I was a strong and relatively healthy guy, a nonsmoker and not a big drinker. But even after I had some blood work done, my gut told me otherwise."

Due to his persistence, Bill underwent a series of procedures that ultimately did reveal a precancerous tumor. Charles J. Yeo, MD, the Samuel D. Gross Professor and Chair of Surgery, removed the tumor by performing a mini-Whipple procedure. "It's a good thing I saw Dr. Yeo when I did," Bill says. His cyst had evolved into a tumor developing its own blood supply. Had the tumor gone unchecked, Bill's condition would have significantly deteriorated within six months.

Dr. Yeo and his team performed the surgery over nearly eight hours. Dr. Yeo comments that, "with Bill, we were fortunate—he is a vigorous young man and his persistence to be tested was critical in the early detection and removal of his tumor, which was pre-malignant. This is the kind of early detection which helps to save lives." On the future of early detection, Dr. Yeo adds that "the paradigm needs to shift, so that rather than performing more operations, we are focusing our efforts on better prevention and detection of tumors."

Bill credits the unconditional love and support of his family, especially his wife Gerry, for helping him and his family cope with his illness and recovery. When Gerry learned about Bill's illness, she immediately went online to do Web research. "It was reassuring to see such evidence of Dr. Yeo's reputation and track record," she recalls. "The capabilities of Jefferson Hospital were everywhere. I felt confident that he would receive the best possible care." Bill adds that the interpersonal experience was just as important, and once they met Dr. Yeo, "It was clear to us that he was a great surgeon well as a tremendously compassionate individual. What a difference that can make in your recovery."

Today Bill is back to work, and as a result of this experience his family is closer than ever. He sums up the elements that made his a success story: "My wife and family were an enormous support; my twin brother Joe saved my life by motivating me to get checked. Dr. Yeo and his team did the rest."