On April 12, 2022 Nancy Maddox of Hannibal, Missouri began experiencing significant memory loss and could suddenly no longer read or write. Suspecting she’d had a stroke, her family took her to see her primary care provider. After numerous tests, a CT scan confirmed extensive stage (Stage IV) small cell lung cancer that had spread to her brain. They left from that appointment and went immediately to St. Louis and just four days later, the tumor in Nancy’s brain was removed at Barnes Jewish Hospital. Then came a very scary four days for Nancy while she awaited the results of the biopsy and determining next steps. Due to the nature of her cancer, immediate treatment was necessary.
Dr. Kevin Palka with Hannibal Regional Medical Group specializes in hematology and oncology and was fellowship-trained at Vanderbilt University. Regarding Nancy’s case, Dr. Palka shares, “Nancy was diagnosed with extensive stage (Stage IV) small cell lung cancer which had spread to her brain. Small cell lung cancer is one of the fastest growing, most aggressive forms of cancer, so urgent treatment is needed. After she finished radiation treatment to the tumors in her brain, she came to Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute for chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy. She had a wonderful response to treatment, and is currently receiving an immunotherapy drug called atezolizumab (Tecentriq) to keep her lung cancer under control.”
One of the most challenging aspects of cancer treatment is managing the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs in order to maintain an excellent quality of life for patients. This can be very overwhelming for patients and their families, but Nancy’s daughter Jennifer Foster says that after meeting with Dr. Palka and his team, those concerns disappeared. “I just want to praise Dr. Palka and his team. We are so blessed to have him here. Dr. Palka uplifted not only mine but my mother’s spirits. He said this is just a bump in the road and we are going to get through it…Dr. Palka is so easy to talk to and I very much appreciated it.”
Jennifer also shares that everything about their experience, from the setup of the infusion rooms to the care given by nurses and staff and the positive attitudes of everyone in the organization, Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute is top notch.
Dr. Palka is dedicated to the best possible outcomes for all his patients, explaining that “Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute is committed to providing state-of-the-art cancer care, but we also try to make sure our patients have as few side effects as possible.” Prior to treatment, the mass in Nancy’s brain was 4.4 cm, roughly the size of a tennis ball. After 10 rounds of chemo treatment, her last scan showed that the mass had shrunk significantly and is now just 1.5cm, or approximately the size of a pencil eraser. Nancy will continue with the immunotherapy drug to keep her lung cancer under control, as well as routine scans. She and her family are so grateful to Dr. Palka and his team, and appreciate having them in their corner during their cancer journey.
For more information about cancer care services offered at Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute, or to make an appointment with Dr. Palka, call 573-629-3500.