Avera Medical Minute: Nationally-recognized care makes a difference in rectal cancer recovery

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 9:54 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Everyone has a story when it comes to cancer — whether you know a friend or family member who has it, or you’ve received the diagnosis yourself.

One man shares his cancer journey, plus how care for rectal cancer patients is being recognized at a national level.

Nearly two years ago, Dan DeBuhr was having some unusual symptoms. What he didn’t think was that it would lead to a cancer diagnosis.

“What actually initially brought me to this whole process is I was at work, and I started going to the bathroom several times a day — maybe 17 times a day,” said DeBuhr.

“Dan was diagnosed in a bit of a unique way with rectal cancer. He actually had seen his doctor and was found to have an elevated PSA, which is blood test that can tip us off that there’s a prostate cancer going on,” said Dr. Heidi McKean, medical oncologist with Avera Medical Group. “That doctor ordered an MRI of the prostate, and because the prostate sits right next to the rectum, they could see that the rectal wall looked very thick, and so that prompted a colonoscopy, and he was indeed found to have rectal cancer.”

Dan was told he had both prostate and rectal cancer. He then came to Sioux Falls for treatment.

“We came up here, and that’s when we met Heidi and her team — very impressive — and that started the whole journey, and she told me that they’re going to take good care of me, and they have,” said DeBuhr.

“So focusing on the pelvis, we could see that this tumor was advancing through the muscle layer of the rectum and was into some lymph nodes, and that’s pretty common that we see that, but that also means that if we aren’t aggressive enough up front with our treatment, that he could have a recurrence in that pelvis,” said McKean.

That treatment included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

“My predominant role in rectal cancer treatment is removing the cancer, and so that often entails what’s called a low anterior resection, and I perform these surgeries minimally invasively,” said Dr. Jesse Guardado, colorectal surgeon with the Surgical Institute of South Dakota. “His surgery went really well. It was actually one of the first times we’ve done a combined rectal cancer case and prostate cancer case, and he recovered very well.”

Dan’s rectal cancer and prostate cancer were removed successfully.

“Now what he is doing is healing and recovering, and he’s just in follow-up mode. We will follow him for about five years,” said McKean.

Cancer care like this is being recognized at a national level. The Avera Cancer Institute was awarded a three-year accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer.

“That means we have protocols for making sure the diagnosis is accurate, we have timely and efficient delivery of the treatment, and a care team that takes care of the patient, and we are monitoring our quality to make sure we have the outcomes we want for the patients,” said McKean.

“I think what this brings to the local care is an increased level of rectal care for patients that they can expect and have the best of care,” said Guardado.

This keeps care front of mind for patients like Dan.

“I’ve never seen so many people in one place care so much,” said DeBuhr.

The Avera Cancer Institute is one of 79 centers in the United States to receive this accreditation and the only one in South Dakota.

To learn more, visit avera.org/medicalminute.