Leg Numbness Leads to Surprising Diagnosis & Life-Saving Surgery
August 18, 2023
When Ken Story, 76, sought relief for numbness in his calf, kidney cancer was the last thing on his mind. Yet a scan ordered for a suspected pinched nerve revealed just that: a mass on his kidney, indicating renal cancer.
Ken first visited an orthopedic doctor in August 2022 for leg numbness. He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and returned a month later to discuss a proposed treatment plan. Although satisfied with the assessment by the (non-Overlake) physician, Ken asked if he could view a copy of the MRI findings himself.
“I was speechless at what I saw,” Ken recalls.
A note on his MRI report indicated Ken had a large mass on his right kidney. The phrase “highly suspicious of renal cell carcinoma” stood out. Still in shock, Ken immediately contacted his longtime Overlake primary care physician Joseph Lee, MD, who ordered a computerized tomography (CT) scan.
Recognizing the seriousness of Ken’s case, Dr. Lee also reached out to Overlake urologic oncologist Khanh Pham, MD, an expert in robotic-assisted surgery specializing in treating urologic cancers, including prostate, bladder and kidney cancer.
The CT results confirmed Ken’s worst nightmare—the growing mass was likely a cancerous tumor involving his right kidney. “Unfortunately, Ken’s case is not uncommon,” says Dr. Pham. “Many patients find out they have kidney cancer after getting an MRI or CT scan for an unrelated condition, and often do not present with any specific symptoms.”
Based on the severity of Ken’s cancer and to prevent it from spreading to other areas in his body, Dr. Pham recommended a radical nephrectomy to remove the tumor and the entire kidney. Recalling Dr. Pham’s hands-on approach, Ken says, “He rearranged his surgery schedule for me because he knew how serious this was. He called me regularly, too, and walked me through each step. He made me feel like a human being as opposed to a number.”
"Dr. Pham rearranged his surgery schedule for me because he knew how serious this was. He called me regularly, too, and walked me through each step. He made me feel like a human being as opposed to a number."
One week after meeting with Dr. Pham, Ken underwent surgery to remove his kidney and tumor in a robotic-assisted procedure. He’s happy to share that the surgery was successful and he’s well on his way to recovery. His remaining kidney has adjusted and is able to perform the work of both kidneys.
“Dr. Pham saved my life, but there is also a good chance I would not be alive today if I had not read the MRI report when I did,” Ken reflects. “Time is everything in these situations. It’s so important to read everything the doctor gives you.”
The Overlake Cancer Center offers state-of-the-art cancer care with extraordinary compassion and focus on all aspects of your wellness. To learn more, visit: overlakehospital.org/CancerCare