With No Symptoms, Tom Learns He Has Kidney Cancer

March 22, 2024

As a former women’s gymnastics coach for the University of Pennsylvania, Tom Kovic knows the value of working as a team. More recently Tom learned the value of working with technology. Here’s his story:

Twenty-plus years ago, Tom was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise kept him at the top of his game, even after retiring his coaching job in 2006.

When he visited his primary care doctor, Michael Krafchick D.O., for a routine check-up, Tom had no concerns, and no hint of a problem. But now, at 66 years old, Tom asked if it made sense to get a scan of his internal organs. He knew Type 1 diabetics had an increased risk of kidney disease and thought a scan might be a good precaution. Dr. Krafchick agreed there would be no harm in getting an MRI.

When the results came back, both Tom and Dr. Krafchick were shocked. Something didn’t look quite right, and Dr. Krafchick referred Tom to Midlantic Urology and Dr. David Cahn for further evaluation. A CAT scan provided a better look, confirming Tom had cancer in the lower portion of his right kidney. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early. After Dr. Cahn reviewed treatment options, Tom decided on a partial nephrectomy to remove the part of his kidney that was cancerous.

Amazed at his good luck and the technology that found his cancer at an early stage, Tom’s surgery required only tiny incisions – an arthroscopic procedure – instead of major abdominal surgery. “Still, the surgery beat me up,” he says.

Afterwards, Dr. Cahn suggested quarterly CAT scans to keep an eye on Tom’s kidneys. “Everything was looking good for the first year,” Tom says, “until a CAT scan showed that the cancer had returned to the same kidney.” Cancer also had spread to Tom’s vena cava, the body’s largest vein. This time it took a team of skilledsurgeons, including Dr. Cahn, to carefully remove the cancer in a procedure that was much longer and more complex than the nephrectomy.

Tom’s recovery from this major surgery has been slow but dramatic. Retired from coaching and now working from home, Tom says “I typically carve out 30 to 45 minutes a day to walk the hills in our neighborhood. It gets my heart racing in a positive way.” He feels good, he says, and hopes to resume training at the gym soon.Looking back, Tom continues to marvel that his long journey with cancer began with a precautionary MRI. “I’m so grateful for that MRI!” He’s also grateful that he was introduced to Dr. Cahn. “Not only is Dr. Cahn an expert in his field and a very successful surgeon; he’s also a good guy. He took the time to explain every complex step in language that I could understand. I really appreciate him.”

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