Diagnosis: The Father with Late Stage Colon Cancer

How two doctors saved a 43-year-old dad from a dire prognosis

Monday, Jun 27, 2011  |  Updated 9:36 AM CDT
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Beating Late Stage Cancer

Eric Jablonski, 43, consults with his physician, Dr. Marshall Baker, left, concerning his prognosis.


The diagnosis was grim.

Doctors told Eric Jablonski, 43, a husband and father of three, that he had stage IV colon cancer. His tumor had metastasized to his liver, and the numbers were against him.

With multiple organs affected, he wasn't expected to live.

Moreover, he was among the 33% of late stage cancer patients who rarely respond to treatment.

Jablonski, however, had two things going for him: his doctors and his family. 

"I remember telling [my doctors], failure is not an option," Jablonski said. "I have three children I intend to see grow up; two of them are daughters who I need to walk down the aisle some day."

Jablonski met with specialists at NorthShore University HealthSystem and told them what was at stake. The doctors developed a treatment plan that involved surgery, chemotherapy and radiofrequency ablation, which destroys tumors through localized heat.

"Years ago, [Eric's] diagnosis was uniformly thought to be fatal," said NorthShore oncologist Jennifer Obel, MD. "[But] as our chemotherapies and surgical outcomes have improved, more patients achieve prolonged survival and even cure."

The Treatment

Doctors treated Jablonski in three steps.

First, oncology surgeon Marshall Baker, MD performed a minimally-invasive surgical procedure to remove the mass in Jablonski's colon. Then, Jablonski underwent several rounds of chemotherapy.

A few months later, Jablonski had a second operation to remove the cancer from his liver.  Dr. Baker laparoscopically removed a portion of the right lobe. Lesions on the left lobe were targeted with radiofrequency ablation.

Following the liver surgery, Jablonski underwent another five rounds of chemotherapy.

The Prognosis
Today, Jablonski remains cancer free and optimistic. Throughout the treatment he never missed work, and never became depressed.

Jablonski's doctors, meanwhile, credit the multi-modal approach to treatment, and Jablsonki's attitude for the successful outcome.

"His tumors completely responded to the chemotherapy," Dr. Obel said. "His prognosis is excellent."

Second in a four-part series on diagnosing and treating Chicagoan's major health problems including cancer, neurological ailments, cardiology concerns and orthopaedics. For more info, refer to northshore.org.

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