Abu Dhabi schoolteacher Dale Yost didn’t suspect for a minute that a sudden itch all over his body could be anything more than a simple dermatological issue. The 66-year-old thought that the pills and creams prescribed by a dermatologist would solve the problem. But when the itching persisted, he began worrying.
Additional bloodwork and scans done at the first hospital he visited revealed that he was suffering from gallbladder and bile duct cancer.
“It sounds so strange that an itch can be a sign of cancer,” says Dale. “They could tell by the scans that my bile ducts were plugged, and so all the bile was building in my body and causing jaundice and the itchiness. The doctors twice tried to put stents in so that the bile could flow into the small bowel again, with no luck.”
“It sounds so strange that an itch can be a sign of cancer”
He says they then tried a biliary drain, a procedure where bile is collected in a bag outside of the body. “I had that pouch on me for a couple of weeks before the hospital recommended that I transfer to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for the complex surgery to remove the cancer.”
Dr Naveed Ahmed, the Hepato-Pancreatic-Biliary surgeon (liver, pancreas, and bile duct) in the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi who treated Dale with a multidisciplinary team of physicians, dieticians, and wound care nurses in November 2020, says their attempt to clear the blocked bile ducts and relieve the symptoms of jaundice with stents was a success. This approach was necessary to continue his treatment to remove the cancer.
The team had to carry out a central hepatectomy, where they had to remove the bile duct and gallbladder completely and had to resect three-quarters of Dale’s liver to cure him.
“About 90% of gallbladder cancers are unresectable”
“About 90% of gallbladder cancers are unresectable, so treating Dale with this procedure is quite uncommon. The surgery required a lot of technical capability and a team with expertise in interventional radiology, advanced endoscopy, gastroenterology and wound care,” Dr Ahmed explains.
Dale’s liver-related tests show that his liver has now grown to a normal size and is functioning at an optimum level. He is now undergoing chemotherapy to treat the cancer in his lymph nodes.
Dale, a father of three and grandfather to 10, plans to retire at the end of the year. He says that his family wanted him to return to his home in Canada earlier for treatment. “If this had happened back home, I would have avoided seeing a doctor because of the wait times to get an appointment. The healthcare in Abu Dhabi, and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in particular, is superior. You just walk in, and an integrated team of physicians, surgeons, dieticians, and wound care nurses are by your side to aid your recovery.”