I owe my doctors my life. They gave me a lot of hope. They had so much confidence; confidence that they can attack anything.
Tony Correa was feeling tired when he went to a local blood drive to make a donation. When the nurse performed the preliminary screening test, Tony was told he couldn’t donate that day because his white blood cell count was high.
White blood cells fight off infection, so a high white blood cell count could mean he had an infection or disease his body was trying to fight off. Tony thought nothing of it, but when he told his girlfriend Janette Puno, a quality analyst at NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley, she was concerned that it could be something serious.
“Out of nowhere, she made an appointment,” he says with a laugh, “thank God she did. I'm so stubborn and, like most people, I don't go to the doctor often as I should.”
Janette scheduled an appointment for Tony with Dr. Daniela Spitzer, an internal medicine doctor with NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley. Dr. Spitzer ran blood tests and performed a breath test to determine if Tony had bacteria in his stomach. The tests showed he was iron deficient and had a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. She prescribed antibiotics and gave him iron pills.
But after finishing the course of antibiotics, Tony was experiencing bloating, cramping, and tenderness in his stomach. Dr. Spitzer referred Tony to Dr. Frank Turchioe, clinical director of the Gastroenterology Department at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital.
Dr. Turchioe examined Tony but didn’t find anything abnormal, except his blood tests showed he was still iron deficient. Concerned that Tony had developed stomach ulcers from his H. pylori infection, which can cause iron deficiency, Dr. Turchioe performed an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy.
“After I had the endoscopy and colonoscopy, the doctor came out and said to me, ’your stomach is fine, but I have some bad news. You have a large mass in your large intestines. It looks cancerous,’” Tony recalls.
The mass, which was in the upper left side of the large intestine, was bleeding. A biopsy confirmed that he had colon cancer. Tony’s case was unusual, at just 42 years old, he was much younger than the typical colon cancer patient — the average age of diagnosis for men is 68 — and he had no family history of colon cancer — 1 in 3 people who develop colon cancer have an immediate family member who has had it. Fortunately, it looked like the tumor had not spread.
Tony was referred to a medical geneticist to perform comprehensive genetic testing to determine if he had an inherited gene mutation. NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital offers genetic testing to all cancer patients to assess familial risks and determine the best treatment option. Tests showed Tony had Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, a type of inherited cancer syndrome associated with a high risk of different types of cancer.
Dr. Turchioe knew Tony needed to have surgery to remove the portion of his colon where the tumor was located. He referred Tony to a colorectal surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley.
“They did everything so fast, they jumped on it because it was such a large mass. Two or three days after meeting the surgeon, I had my operation,” Tony says. To remove the mass, the surgeon had to remove about eight inches of Tony’s intestines, where the mass was located, before sewing it back together. The surgery was complicated because the cancer was near his spleen. Because the cancer had not spread, Tony would not need further treatment.
“I owe my doctors my life. They gave me a lot of hope. They had so much confidence; confidence that they can attack anything,” he says. “They made me feel so much better, and I just felt that it's in their hands, and it's in God's hands where we can move forward, and I felt good.”