Winning the Battle
In April 2005, Mark Katigbak began experiencing numbness on the left side of his face. The numbness continued and his face also began hurting, so he visited an ear, nose and throat surgeon. After having an MRI, Katigbak was diagnosed with a tumor and was referred to Mark Varvares, M.D., SLUCare otolaryngologist and director of the Saint Louis University Cancer Center.
Dr. Varvares formed a multidisciplinary team to carefully evaluate the signs and symptoms Mark was experiencing. Joining Dr.Varvares were Bruce Walz, M.D., SLUCare radiation oncologist; Hans-Joachim Remiers, M.D., Ph.D., SLUCare oncologist; and Allan Thornton, M.D., medical director for Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute.
The team's process of continual quality improvement provides valuable information to improve patient outcomes. After a series of biopsies, it was determined that Mark had nasopharyngeal cancer, a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the nasopharynx. Mark was relieved to finally discover the reason for his discomfort, and although facing the diagnosis of cancer, he knew that this was the beginning of the road to his recovery.
Mark went through extensive chemotherapy and radiation, eventually losing 115 pounds. Throughout the process, the staff encouraged and welcomed questions about his treatment and recovery.
"I have been fortunate to have strong support from my family, co-workers, church, friends and the Saint Louis University staff. If you stay positive and surround yourself with good people, you've won most of the battle," Mark says.
Mark finished radiation in March 2006 and chemotherapy in June 2006. He currently visits a multidisciplinary clinic once a month. He also has a PET/CT scan every three months. The 64-slice positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET/CT) provides the physicians at SLU Hospital with unparalleled real-time brain imaging and diagnostic capabilities.
Saint Louis University Hospital is one of only two beta testing sites in the United States for this diagnostic equipment, making it the only hospital in a 500-mile radius to own and operate this powerful diagnostic equipment.
Mark is currently in remission.
To make an appointment with a Cancer Center physician, please call (314) 977-4440 or toll-free, (866)977-4440.