Rare diagnosis helps Newnan man stop cancer before it struck

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John Davis knew something was wrong.

For more than a year, his body continued to weaken but test results only showed he was anemic. It wasn’t until he made a trip to Piedmont Newnan Hospital after he began shaking uncontrollably and felt hypothermic that the root cause was discovered: a tumor.

Kory Vaughn, M.D., an emergency department physician at Piedmont Newnan, ordered an abdominal ultrasound to test for kidney stones the night Davis came to the hospital. Instead, he found a mass the size of a pack of cigarettes attached to Davis’ small intestine.

“I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and after bleeding internally for over a year, I was put in the ER so that this ultrasound would be performed,” Davis said. “If it wasn’t for the intuition of Dr. Vaughn, this mass would’ve gone undiagnosed and I ultimately would’ve died from colon cancer.”

Davis had surgery to remove the mass, a gastrointestinal stromal tumor, in March at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. The tumor had attached to his small intestine, abdominal wall and was resting on his colon. Had he waited much longer for surgery, the tumor would have attached itself to his colon and there would’ve been nothing they could do.

“Gastrointestinal stromal tumors are uncommon,” Dr. Vaughn said. “They also can be difficult to diagnose as many of these tumors are small and do not cause any symptoms. I’m glad we were able to diagnose John when we did.”

 

According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated there are about 4,000 to 5,000 total gastrointestinal stromal tumor cases each year in the United States. Only 30 percent of these cases have tumors that start in the small intestine like Davis. Symptoms include blood loss, abdominal pain or discomfort, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, problems swallowing and feeling full after eating small amounts of food.

Davis feels he’s been given a second chance at life and looks forward to spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren. Two weeks after surgery, Davis returned to Piedmont Newnan to express his gratitude to Dr. Vaughn and team.

“The Piedmont organization is amazing,” said Davis, who nicknamed the hospital ‘Club Newnan’ because of the great care he has received each visit. “From the doctors to housekeeping, everyone had a pleasant personality and treated me like a friend. These employees deserve to be rewarded for their hard work and great patient relations.”

“It is so nice to see a patient you treated in their worst condition come back and be given a new look on life,” Dr. Vaughn said. “I wish him and his family all the best.”

For more information about Piedmont Newnan Hospital, visit www.piedmont.org.