Kavitha (28), who had a malignant tumor completely obstructing her food pipe, had her first food in two weeks through her stomach that has now been reconstructed into a food pipe.
The woman, wife of construction labourer Ravi Shankar from Thiruvottiyur, was suffering from squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer that was recurrent on her leading to breathlessness, pain and inability to consume food or speak. She was admitted to Government Stanley Medical Hospital where doctors removed her voice box and food pipe. They performed a ‘total laryngo pharyngo esophagectomy with stomach pull through’ called Ong’s procedure, where a team of doctors led by Dr Jaswanth reconstructed her full stomach to the shape of a food pipe and connected it with the base of her tongue. Thanks to the Chief Minister’s comprehensive health insurance scheme and Stanley Hospital Dean Dr Geethalakshmi’s intervention, the hospital had all the sophisticated equipments required for the complex and rare surgery that was performed free of cost.
“We removed her larynx, pharynx and esophagus. As she approached us with respiratory distress, we made an opening in the trachea for her to breathe. We did not open her chest for the procedure,” said Dr M Ramaniraj, Professor of ENT, Stanley Medical Hospital.
Kavitha’s suffering and pain started much earlier when she was diagnosed with cancer and underwent 30-sittings of radiotherapy for three months in Stanley starting February 2013. Her husband Ravishankar recalled that his wife was normal for two weeks after the treatment and slowly began to suffer pain again and breathlessness. “At one point she screamed in pain every day.”
A scan then revealed that the cancer was recurrent and was completely obstructing her food pipe. Fifteen days after the surgery on October 1, Kavitha had her first food. “I had milk. There is no pain now,” the 28-year-old said through hand signs.
Doctors said Kavitha would also get a voice prosthesis, which would be fixed as an external device. “She would slowly start with semi solid and solid food. She has a 70 to 80 per cent of the survival rate of her actual life time, unlike the five-year survival rate for cancer patients, as the organ affected with cancer itself is removed. The only difference will be that she cannot eat full meals. She has to eat little once in every two hours,” the ENT professor said.