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“She just wasn’t feeling well,” explains Patty Contreras. In September of 2019, her mother, Herminia Contreras, had been having stomach pain, no appetite, and an upset stomach for a few weeks. Herminia’s family urged her to see her primary care physician. Abdominal diagnostic tests revealed a sizeable cyst on her pancreas.

Her doctor suggested she see a gastroenterologist to investigate further. After resolving an unrelated serious infection that required hospitalization and antibiotics, Patty helped her mother make an appointment to see Sajan Nagpal, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Nagpal ordered diagnostic imaging to further understand and categorize the golf-ball sized cyst on Herminia’s pancreas. While Herminia and her family held out hope that the cyst might be benign, an endoscopic ultrasound revealed that it was cancerous.

Herminia’s care team took swift action to perform minimally invasive surgery to remove both the large growth and her spleen. After the surgery, conducted by surgical oncologist Jeffrey B. Matthews, MD, the Dallas B. Phemister Professor of Surgery and Chair of the Department of Surgery, Herminia’s pain and nausea subsided, and her appetite returned. She resumed living her life, and her true joy: spending time with her children and grandchild.

Her follow up with Dr. Nagpal and Dr. Matthews in September 2020 brought more good news: clear scans and no cancer. The Contreras family is grateful for their counsel, saying, “Dr. Nagpal and Dr. Matthews are both amazing. They take the time to explain things to you, to make you feel the most comfortable. You feel like you’re in the right hands.”

What advice does the Contreras family have for other patients? “I would say go in right away,” says Patty. “We didn’t know what was going on until it led to an emergency situation, but even an upset stomach can be a sign of something. Please, keep on top of any stomach issue.”

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