Endometrial Cancer Survivor Credits Survival to Her Oncologist’s Persistence

Sometimes even the most sophisticated medical tests and technology can’t compare to a doctor’s experience and intuition. Just ask Edith Odabashian, whose oncologist at Lynn Cancer suspected there was something about her health that multiple separate tests had failed to confirm.

Ms. Odabashian, a retired German-born fashion designer who has made Pompano Beach her home for more than 30 years, began experiencing some unusual symptoms in March 2021 that she thought might be related to an ovarian cyst. She had had the cyst for decades and was being followed annually by her gynecologist,

Michael Fleischer, MD of Boca Raton Regional Hospital, which is part of Baptist Health South Florida. It was Dr. Fleischer who had referred her to the Lynn Women’s Institute for her annual mammograms.

Mrs. Odabashian remembers the beginning of her symptoms. “One day I was shopping, pushing my cart, and I felt a sharp pain. The next week, I started experiencing fluid draining from my vagina and pain, so I went to see Dr. Fleischer right away,” she recalls. “He did some tests on me and an ultrasound confirmed that the ovarian cyst was still there, and also showed that there was a lot of fluid in the uterus.” Dr. Fleischer ordered a CA-125 blood antigen test for Ms. Odabashian. The results came back “high,” she told him, which meant there was a chance she had cancer.

Something wasn’t right. Ms. Odabashian’s pain and fluid drainage from her vagina continued. The presence of any fluid drainage or discharge from the vagina or any vaginal bleeding in patients like Ms. Odabashian who have already gone through menopause is abnormal and is often an early sign of uterine cancer.

Dr. Fleischer referred his patient to Thomas Morrissey, MD, Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Lynn Cancer Institute, which is part of Boca Raton Regional Hospital and

Baptist Health South Florida. As part of his evaluation, Dr. Morrissey ordered a CT scan of his abdomen and pelvis.

“Mrs. Odabashian had a CT scan that revealed uneven thickening of the lining of her uterus,” recalls Dr. Morrissey, adding that this was likely the cause of the new vaginal drainage she was experiencing. “However, something was not normal and we needed to determine if it was cancer or not.” A biopsy of the uterine lining done in her office showed atypical cells suspicious for cancer.

Since she was past childbearing age – “A lady doesn’t divulge her age,” she says with a laugh – Dr. Morrissey recommended a total hysterectomy, that is, removal of the uterus and ovaries. “That surprised me a lot,” recalls Ms. Odabashian.

Although she fully trusted Dr. Morrissey, Ms. Odabashian was reluctant to accept his recommendation to have surgery. But then, she says, something happened that changed her mind. As a deeply religious woman, she says that one day God spoke to her about her. “He only said one word to me: ‘Cancer’. And that was all I needed, so I scheduled my surgery with Dr. Morrissey, and I knew that God would show us where my cancer was.”

Shortly thereafter, Ms. Odabashian underwent a robotic-assisted laparoscopic total hysterectomy and removal of her fallopian tubes and ovaries. According to Dr. Morrissey, this state-of-the-art method results in smaller incisions, quicker recovery time, and quicker return to normal activities. “Patients usually go home from the hospital the same day,” he says.

Ms. Odabashian’s uterus was sent to the pathology lab for analysis during the operation. Sure enough, she tested positive for cancer. “This was a very early cancer in the endometrial lining of the uterus,” explains Dr. Morrissey, who diagnosed her with stage 1A endometrial cancer. “She had only grown 20% into the uterine wall, so fortunately we were able to detect and treat her cancer at a very early stage.” Because the cancer was detected so early, no further treatment was necessary, he says.

Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer, says Dr. Morrissey, with more than 80,000 cases diagnosed each year. “It is also the most curable, if caught early,” he stresses. “Any vaginal bleeding or new vaginal discharge or drainage in postmenopausal patients is abnormal. If a woman is in menopause and has any vaginal bleeding or discharge or fluid drainage, she should be evaluated immediately by a gynecologist.”

For her part, Ms. Odabashian is grateful to Dr. Morrissey for his persistence with her case. “I feel very lucky. Up until that point, all the lab reports had said that she was cancer-free and all my family members were telling me that she was cancer-free,” she says. “But Dr. Morrissey thought he did have cancer and he was persistent on this point. And he was right. He saved my life.”

These days, Ms. Odabashian feels better and returns to her daily routine with the help of a home health aide. She continues to see Dr. Morrissey and Dr. Fleischer every six months and keeps up with her mammograms and other medical screenings. She says that whenever possible, she prefers to have her health care needs taken care of at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, which is home to the Lynn Cancer Institute, Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute and other major programs and services.

“I was very impressed with the Lynn Women’s Institute and the Lynn Cancer Institute,” says Ms. Odabashian. “The people were very friendly and treated me very well. They had the latest equipment and gave me the test results quickly. And of course they took very good care of me with my cancer.”

Tags: Boca Raton Regional Hospital, cáncer de endometrio, Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute, Lynn Cancer Institute, Michael Fleischer M.D., Thomas Morrissey M.D.