Avera Medical Minute: Rare Digestive Tumor - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Avera Medical Minute: Rare Digestive Tumor

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Dennis Thum had a rare digestive disease. Dennis Thum had a rare digestive disease.

Our last Avera Medical Minute, we showed you how different specialties come together every Friday morning at Avera McKennan to come up with treatment plans for complicated digestive disease cases. We are going to show you how a collaborative effort saved a Sioux Falls man major surgery and helped diagnose one of the rarest cases in the country.

Dennis Thum is training for the Sioux Falls St. Patrick's Day 5K road race. That's pretty amazing considering the 57 year old USF Campus Pastor had surgery in February to remove a rare tumor in his digestive tract.

Dennis says, "It all started last March when I ran a road race (the same one he is training for) and suddenly I was so exhausted. That was the only sign. I thought I just must be getting old. I was short winded and thought I can't do this anymore. What I didn't realize is I should have gone to the doctor right away."

Months later he went in to Dr. Scott Dierks, his family practice doctor at Avera McGreevy, for an overdue physical and discovered he was extremely iron deficient.

Dennis says, "I was so anemic I needed 2 units of blood."

To rule anything out, Dennis was sent to general surgeon Dr. Tom Fullerton for a colonoscopy which came back clean. So then he did an upper GI endoscopy. That's when they discovered Dennis had a large tumor in his duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine.   That's when Dr. Tariq Khan, a transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon, was brought in on the case.

Dr. Khan says, "This is not a very common cancer. It is very rare, to be honest there are only 150 cases so far in English literature since the 1800's."

Further tests showed Dennis's Brunner's Gland, one of the glands that helps neutralize all the acid from the stomach, had grown out of control, but benign.

Dr. Khan says, "When it came back as Brunner's gland adenoma that changes the entire picture. Knowing the fact that this is a benign cancer you really don't have to go through a radical resection and you can cut it out."
Dr. Khan brought  Avera Gastroenterologist  Dr. Steven Condron in to the mix which turned out to be a first-of its-kind case in Sioux Falls. Dr. Condron would do an endoscopic surgery, going down the throat, to remove the large mass. Dr. Khan and his team stood by in the operating room in case any complications arose. None did. It went flawlessly. This saved Dennis from having major surgery and having his digestive tract altered permanently.

Dennis says, "I went in to the operating room not knowing what was going to happen. It was either going to be a procedure or a major surgery. I said to my friends, pray for a procedure. When I saw Dr. Condron before I went in to the OR, I told him he was the most prayed over doctor in the world. I went to sleep and when I woke up in recovery 2 hours later it was tremendous relief."

Dr. Condron says, "It was a true collaboration effort in the sense that multiple people involved in multiple specialties with Dennis seeing a number of doctors on a number of occasions."

The tumor was so big Dr. Condron had to cut it in half to get it out. It ended up being the size of 2 golf balls.

Dr. Condron says, "It was the best possible outcome that we could have hoped for. We have no reason to believe it will grow back either."

Dr. Khan says, "Dennis is a one of those one in a million cases you see in your lifetime. None of us will ever see something like this ever again in our lifetime."
Dennis says, "It was like getting my youth back in many ways. I thought, at 57 it's too late, I'm over the hill but I guess I do have a few runs left in me after all."

And this year nothing will stop him from getting to the finish line.

Dennis ended up only spending one night in the hospital as a precaution and was back at work at USF 2 days later.  If you see him in the St. Patty's Day run, cheer him on!


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