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Woman's Abdominal Organs Removed in Unique Cancer Surgery
Date:3/24/2008

Taking out stomach, pancreas, liver, spleen, small intestine and large intestine led to lifesaving operation

MONDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Brooke Zepp, a 63-year-old South Florida woman, was diagnosed last May with leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancerous tumor deep inside her abdomen that had wrapped itself around her aorta and other arteries that supply blood to vital organs such as the stomach, intestines and spleen.

Surgery wasn't an option, she was told, because there was literally no room to remove the tumor without damaging those vital organs. She was given six months to live.

Refusing to give up, Zepp went to the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, where surgeons at The Transplant Institute performed what's believed to be the first operation of its kind: Early this month, they removed six of her internal organs, freeing up space to cut out the cancer, and then they reinserted the organs.

Usually, this is an inoperable tumor, Dr. Andreas Tzakis, director of The Transplant Institute, said during a Monday teleconference. "In order to remove the tumor, we took a very unusual approach. We removed all the organs along with the blood vessels and the tumor," he said.

Before undergoing the operation, Zepp had tried chemotherapy and radiation, both of which failed. The only option left was surgery, "but no one wanted to operate," Zepp said during the teleconference.

"Because people wouldn't operate and I wanted to live, I said, 'Somebody has to do it first,' " Zepp said. "And I wanted to prove to people, even though many doctors told me not to do this, that I thought it would be better to take a chance on living than on dying."

The organs removed during the 15-hour surgery were the stomach, pancreas, liver, spleen, small intestine and about two-thirds of the large intestine. Because of their delicate nature, the kidneys weren't taken out during the procedure, Tzakis n
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