In February 2022, Katie Lofink was surprised to learn she had endometrial (uterine) cancer. Before her diagnosis, she felt fine. However, while playing golf one afternoon, Katie experienced some vaginal bleeding. "I had just turned 60, and my periods stopped seven years ago." She admitted having a small amount of spotting before but didn't think it was anything to worry about.
Hearing a Cancer Diagnosis
Katie immediately made an appointment with Timothy Philpott, MD, a gynecologist on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, who ordered an ultrasound to examine her uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Tissue from her uterus that was sent for testing revealed that she had endometrial cancer.
Pawel Dyk, MD, a radiation oncologist on staff at MoBap, explained that endometrial cancer is the most common gynecological cancer in the United States and starts in the uterus, the organ where fetal development occurs. This type of cancer begins in the cells that form the uterine lining, or endometrium.
On February 18, Katie's gynecologist oncologist performed a robot-assisted surgical removal of her uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, cervix and a small portion of her upper vagina. Tissue samples analyzed in MoBap's pathology lab showed Katie's cancer was Stage 2.
Choosing MoBap for Treatment
Katie was at a crossroads about where to receive additional cancer treatment to help prevent her cancer from returning. "I chose Missouri Baptist because they have a great reputation for cutting-edge cancer therapies and care."
Katie learned that she would not require chemotherapy, but brachytherapy was recommended, a form of internal radiation.
"MoBap has a well-established brachytherapy program with extensive experience treating uterine cancer and other gynecological malignancies," Dr. Dyk said.
Targeted Radiation Therapy
Dr. Dyk explained that brachytherapy uses radioactive sources to treat cancer. In Katie's case, the radioactive source was the size of a small pellet that was inserted into a cylinder channel placed into the upper part of her vagina, the most likely area for cancer to return. "Brachytherapy delivers a high dose of localized radiation to kill any remaining microscopic cancer cells in the high-risk area. Treatment lasts five to 10 minutes, and afterward the cylinder and radioactive source are removed."
He added that treatment is very effective at destroying cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding normal tissue. "It is a very tolerable and painless treatment with minimal side effects."
Before treatment, Katie met with Dr. Dyk. "I always felt part of the decision-making process. Dr. Dyk even drew pictures to explain answers to my questions."
As she walked down the hallway at MoBap for her first treatment, Katie said the experience was overwhelming. "I was nervous, but the doctors, nurses and technicians were encouraging and very kind. Their compassion and support helped me feel less anxious, and I felt like I had a team by my side."
Katie had five brachytherapy treatments twice a week for three weeks.
In May 2022, Katie finished her treatments and is celebrating her cancer remission. She follows up closely with her cancer team, seeing her gynecologist oncologist every three months and Dr. Dyk every six months for regular physical examinations.
Today, Katie is back on the golf course and enjoying life. As she reflects on her experience, Katie encourages women to listen to their bodies. "If you have unusual symptoms or something doesn't feel right, talk to your doctor."
MoBap Is Among the Top in the Nation for Clinical Trials
As a member of an NCORP (National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program), the Cancer Center at Missouri Baptist provides cancer patients with access to a wide selection of National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials of new cancer therapies, cancer prevention strategies and interventions to reduce the symptoms associated with cancer.
The number of clinical trials has grown in the last year, and MoBap has access to many of the same trials offered at larger academic cancer hospitals like Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering, MD Anderson and Washington University School of Medicine.