A Team Approach to Cancer Care

In the fall of 2015, local teacher Sara Davis of Enumclaw, then 44, was settling into a new school year with her students. She kept a busy schedule as a mom of two sons and an avid equestrian. But she couldn’t shake her nagging worry about persistent abdominal pain, weight loss and abnormal bleeding.

In October, a colonoscopy followed by a CT scan helped reveal a startling diagnosis: Stage four obstructing colorectal cancer that had spread to the liver. Sara knew she wanted to fight the disease, and quickly. At the recommendation of her oncologist L. Katherine Martin, MD, Sara went straight to the Tacoma office of Shalini Kanneganti, MD, FACS, FASCRS, medical director of colon and rectal surgery at Franciscan Medical Group.

About 20 percent of the time, colon cancer spreads to other organs, often the liver, explains Dr. Kanneganti. For stage four colorectal cancers, 5-year survival rates are around 8 percent. Sara’s prognosis depended on swift multidisciplinary intervention.

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The next day, Dr. Kanneganti performed a laparoscopic surgery called a bypassing colonoscopy to allow Sara’s digestive system to bypass the growth obstructing her colon.

In January 2016, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health surgical oncologist Tommy Brown, MD, performed a partial hepatectomy to remove four tumors from her liver. After more chemotherapy and radiation, Dr. Kanneganti performed surgery to remove Sara’s rectal tumor in September 2016, followed by a fourth and final surgery to restore Sara’s GI tract to normal in January 2017.

Throughout treatment, Sara’s care team helped her juggle chemotherapy, manage side effects and heal from each surgery. Last fall, her doctors found no evidence of cancer, but ten years must pass before she’ll be considered cancer-free.

In the meantime, Sara is back to enjoying life with her family and her students. She returned to the classroom part-time in February and full-time this fall — with plenty to share with her students about the power of persistence, hope and teamwork.