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Cancer Survivor Ready for Next Frame in Life

After a routine endoscopy uncovered an esophageal polyp, avid bowler Randall Cornish was referred to the University of Chicago Medicine

After a routine endoscopy uncovered an esophageal polyp, avid bowler Randall Cornish was referred to the University of Chicago Medicine Randall Cornish relaxing with his family on vacation.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) requires close monitoring and management because it can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-cursor to esophageal cancer. So when Randall Cornish’s father underwent surgery for treatment of GERD in 1998, Cornish and his primary care physician decided it was high time to begin regular surveillance of his own GERD and Barrett’s esophagus diseases.

In 2011, Cornish was undergoing a routine upper endoscopy when his gastroenterologist discovered a small polyp in his esophagus.

Cornish was immediately referred to the care of Irving Waxman, MD, an interventional gastroenterologist and recognized expert in the minimally invasive treatment of esophageal, gastric, rectal tumors. Waxman, who also serves as director of the University of Chicago Medicine Center of Endoscopic Research and Therapeutics (CERT), used endoscopic techniques to remove the lesion in order to assess its stage.

“Shortly after that appointment, I remember I was sitting outside my home when I received the kind of call you don’t like to get from the doctor,” Cornish recalled. “That’s when his office told me to come in so we could discuss treatment options. I had esophageal cancer.”

Why Choose the University of Chicago Medicine?

The University of Chicago Medicine has cultivated a reputation as a world-class institution for cancer care. Among its many oncology programs, the Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology features a deeply experienced multidisciplinary team dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and management of challenging upper gastrointestinal cancers.

The Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology houses a highly specialized Gastrointestinal Cancer Risk and Prevention Clinic, which offers risk assessment for patients and families with a genetic predisposition to gastrointestinal cancers. The Center also offers the full menu of advanced technologies aimed at painless but accurate diagnosis and surveillance of malignancies.

“We have one of the largest single-center experiences in the endoscopic treatment of precancerous and early cancerous lesions of the esophagus,” Waxman said. “CERT also takes a collaborative multidisciplinary approach between pathologists, surgeons and oncologists, all of whom play an integral part in the evaluation, planning and treatment of patients with this condition.”

In addition to diagnosing and treating malignancies, the University of Chicago Medicine has a team of researchers working diligently to understand the underlying mechanisms of cancer. These research findings are translated into clinical trials designed to explore future promising therapies for cancer. In many cases, the medical center is the only organization in the Chicagoland area to offer specific clinical trials.

“The University of Chicago Medicine is uniquely positioned not only to deliver state-of-the-art care for esophageal cancer but has developed novel clinical trials exploring tailored therapy to each patient’s cancer based on the genetic makeup of their specific tumor,” said Mitchell C. Posner, MD, a renowned surgical oncologist and physician-in-chief of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Beating Cancer, Bowling Better

Beating Cancer, Bowling Better Cornish walking his daughter down the aisle.

When Waxman discovered Cornish's esophageal cancer, he immediately referred Cornish's care to Posner. The two cancer specialists have collaborated and partnered on countless esophageal cancer cases over the span of their careers at UChicago Medicine.

Cornish consulted with Posner, who recommended an esophagectomy — an aggressive surgical treatment that removes part or all of the esophagus. Posner performed the surgery in October 2011. Four years later, Cornish is now cancer free. As if that is not reason enough to rejoice, he experienced another unexpected but welcome consequence of the surgery.

“Because of the nature of the esophagectomy, I lost 50 pounds,” Cornish explained. “Before the surgery, I was on high blood pressure and cholesterol medication. Now I’m not on any medication at all. Plus, my knees love it, and my bowling average has gone up!”

Recounting his care experience, Cornish said the expertise and compassionate care of his UChicago Medicine team made all the difference in his survivorship story.

“Of course, my story is still being written, but I think it is just an incredible stroke of luck that I ended up at the University of Chicago Medicine,” he said. “Even though I live in the suburbs, I somehow got referred to the hospital and landed in the care of doctors who have taken care of people like me hundreds of times. My entire team was wonderful, and I know my chance of success was far superior because of their experience.”

Spring 2016