Although she missed a romantic Valentine's Day dinner with her husband, Karen Mikkelson's illness on the anniversary of their engagement was a blessing in disguise.
At age 75, Mikkelson enjoys tennis, golfing, skiing and ballroom dancing with her husband, Bruce. She's also one of those people who rarely get sick. That's why a sudden recurring stomach ailment sent her promptly to her doctor.
After finding abnormal results on laboratory tests, Mikkelson's doctor scheduled her for an MRI. The MRI showed a blockage in a bile duct, but doctors were unable to determine whether it was a gallstone or something more serious.
Mikkelson was referred to Abbott Northwestern Hospital's Center for Advanced Endoscopy. It provides specialized tests that help doctors diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses. In fact, many of the procedures offered there are not available at most other hospitals.
"It's not just the technology we have, it's the team we've assembled to help take care of patients like Karen," said Federico Rossi, MD, a gastroenterologist with Minnesota Gastroenterology and medical director of the Center for Advanced Endoscopy.
"We have strong support from a hepatologist, pancreaticobiliary surgeons, radiologists, anesthesiologists and nurses. There are many pieces to the puzzle and they all come together here," he added.
Mikkelson had a procedure called an endoscopic ultrasound. It involved passing a small, flexible tube through the mouth and into the digestive tract. An ultrasound instrument on the tube uses sound waves to produce accurate images of surrounding organs and tissues.
"One of the best things about that day was that I had a nurse who was with me the whole time," recalled Mikkelson. "She explained everything that was going to happen. It was such a comfort to have someone there who was so attentive."
Rossi found that Mikkelson had a small tumor. Tests later confirmed that it was cancerous. But Rossi could see that there were no obvious signs the tumor had spread. He also sampled nearby lymph nodes, and they proved to be cancer-free.
Because Rossi had assembled such a complete picture of Mikkelson's diagnosis, it made it much easier for her surgeon and doctors with the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute® at Abbott Northwestern Hospital to plan her treatment.
"Before this procedure was available, we might have done surgery without really knowing if surgery was the best option for a patient," said Rossi.
Mikkelson had surgery in April and started chemotherapy shortly thereafter.
"The good part about all of this was that I had symptoms before the cancer spread," she said. "And I had wonderful care. I can't think of anyone at the hospital who didn't truly show that they cared."
Healthy Communities Magazine, Fall 2011
Abbott Northwestern Hospital Center for Advanced Endoscopy experts