Less than five percent. That is the average number of carcinosarcoma uterine cancer cases diagnosed each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. And roughly 35 percent of patients diagnosed will survive their next five years after.
Carcinosarcoma is known as a malignant mixed Mullerian tumor (MMMT), and is a highly aggressive form of uterine cancer. Tumors, such as these, most commonly develop in women post-menopause and are rarely reported in pre-menopausal women.
Betty Kittelson, a retired customer service representative of The Jamestown Sun, discovered spotting.
Kittelson had recently been on a road trip to visit one of her sisters in Wadena, Minn. With the rough and bumpy roads from the trip, Kittelson thought little of the spotting. Two weeks later, she still noticed blood.
After a conversation with one of the providers at Essentia Health Clinic and a pap test, they referred Kittelson to JRMC Gynecologist & Obstetrician, Dr. Bailey Runkles, the only OB/GYN in the Jamestown community.
“After menopause, you should never have bleeding,” shared Dr. Runkles. “Most likely it isn’t cancer, but that should always be ruled out.”
Dr. Runkles diagnosed Kittelson with Stage 1A MMMT in December 2017. Once diagnosed, Kittelson scheduled an appointment with Dr. Maria Bell, gynecologic oncologist, in Sioux Falls, S.D. to perform the robotic surgery.
Kittelson and husband, Loren, drove to S.D. for her procedure. She spent one night in recovery and received follow up radiation in Fargo. She will continue to receive follow up care every six months for the next two years.
Considering how rare her cancer is, Kittelson is grateful that she could receive so much of her care close to home.
“I was so thankful the uterine cancer had been contained within the uterus and hadn’t spread to any lymph nodes yet,” Kittelson said. “To have Dr. Runkles explain everything in the manner that she did and for her to reassure me, it was thoughtful. Dr. Runkles is a very caring and knowledgeable person. She knew all of the right people that would care for me and knew her limits, I think that was wonderful.”
“It’s not a competition amongst the physicians, nurses and medical centers. Instead, it’s comradery. They all wanted to see my Betty become cancer-free,” Loren said.
And they did just that. Nearly six months after surgery, Kittelson’s six-month check-up is set for June. And so far, so good. Kittelson is cancer free.
She looks forward to getting her life back to normal and enjoying summer nights on the porch, watching the flowerbeds and hearing the coyotes howl.
“I am happy to share my story because that is what life is. It’s about sharing,” Kittelson said.
To learn more about uterine cancer, women’s health or Dr. Runkles, contact JRMC Clinic at (701) 952-4878.