North Texas woman survives complicated surgery to remove large tumor

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on October 18, 2013 at 9:36 AM

DALLAS -- Doctors had never seen anything like it.

Vivian Peters was brought to Baylor Dallas two weeks ago with a suspected blood clot.

Surgeons instead discovered a giant tumor growing inside Peters' chest. Cancerous tentacles extended into vital organs.

"It was 13.5-centimeters long,” said transplant surgeon Dr. Giuliano Testa. “This is the biggest I've seen.”

"Oh my God, no wonder I couldn't breathe," Peters recalled her reaction.

Doctors say the tumor is a leiomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer growing in the inferior vena cava, the major vein responsible for bringing deoxygenated blood from the lower part of the body to heart.

Only about 300 similar tumors have been recorded worldwide. This may be the largest that doctors have ever attempted to remove.

"And the only way to do this was to take out of the body the liver and both kidneys of this patient,” Dr. Testa said. “Put them in a basin in the cold so they could be preserved."

In a complicated, 11-hour surgery involving a 20-member medical team, doctors had to remove the tumor, repair the heart and connecting vessel, then retransplant the liver and kidneys back into Vivian Peters' body. She was kept alive on a heart bypass machine.

Just two weeks later, she is going home.

As far as anyone knows, there are no other cases like this in the world.

But Vivian, who works in a casino, doesn't think luck was to thank for her health.

"I'm just blessed,” she said. “I think God has something in store for me, and I can’t wait to see what it is.”

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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