Thanks to synergy between CHOP Primary Care pediatricians and specialists at our community affiliate and our Main hospital, a cancerous tumor was diagnosed and treated before 6-month-old Rhys had any symptoms and before the cancer spread.
When Parisa and Terrence of Havertown, Pa., took their firstborn son, Rhys, for a routine 6-month well visit, they expected it to be just that. Routine.
Rhys was the first patient pediatrician Ryan Mascio, DO, saw the morning of Oct. 27, 2022, at CHOP Primary Care Haverford in Bryn Mawr, Pa. During the check-up, Dr. Mascio felt a lump in Rhys’s abdomen that concerned him.
Dr. Mascio scheduled Rhys to have an urgent ultrasound that day at Main Line Health’s Bryn Mawr Hospital, CHOP’s community affiliate which is across the street from his office. The two health systems have a pediatric alliance where CHOP’s board-certified pediatricians, pediatric hospitalists, pediatric specialists, neonatologists and advanced practice providers work alongside staff at Bryn Mawr Hospital to provide exceptional care to infants, children and teens living in Delaware and Montgomery counties.
The ultrasound showed a massive tumor growing on Rhys’s left kidney. Rhys had what’s called Wilms tumor. This is a cancerous (also called malignant) tumor originating in the cells of the kidney. Rhys’s case was stage 1. This means the cancer was contained to just the left kidney and hadn’t spread (metastasized) to any other organs or his lymph nodes.
No medical diagnosis is easy for any parent to hear, especially a cancer diagnosis for new parents of an infant. Dr. Mascio had the family return to his office later that same day so he could give them the news himself.
“It felt like the end of the world,” recalls Parisa. “He wanted to make sure we were OK, offer his support in person, and make sure we were on track with our follow up.”
A fast-track for referral
Dr. Mascio reached out to CHOP’s Cancer Center team. Tracey F. Jubelirer, MD, an attending physician with CHOP’s Cancer Center, was able to see Rhys the next day. Within a week of Rhys’s tumor being discovered, CHOP Attending Pediatric Surgeon, Peter Mattei, MD, performed a nephrectomy, surgically removing the tumor as well as Rhys’s entire left kidney. He also removed some of the lymph nodes around the tumor, to be extra sure.
“The whole CHOP team was just fantastic,” says Terrence. “There’s no question of Dr. Mascio's thoroughness. He could have easily missed it, but he noticed it right away, dealt with it right away. Dr. Mattei is amazing, and we couldn’t have asked for better nurses.”
Rhys was discharged from the hospital within four days. A few weeks later, his family was able to go on a pre-planned European vacation!
The benefits of the full CHOP network
The family’s experience is a perfect example of the synergy that exists between CHOP Primary Care, CHOP community affiliates, and specialists at CHOP’s two hospital locations (Philadelphia and King of Prussia). When families choose to be a part of the CHOP Care Network, they not only get the trusted expertise of the region's top pediatric Primary Care teams, but they also become part of the entire CHOP family, with all the resources this world-class organization has to offer.
“That's why we chose CHOP Primary Care for him,” says Parisa. “They address things quickly and are all on the same page. When we needed to see a specialist, Dr. Mascio was able to make sure the acute care team was aware of what was happening. He smoothed out the process so we could focus on taking care of each other. Our experience with Dr. Jubelirer and all the nurses and support staff we’ve met throughout his journey have continued to keep us feeling supported, important and like we’re in the right place.”
Rhys didn’t need any follow-up chemotherapy or radiation. He has regular follow-up appointments every few months where he undergoes an ultrasound and MRI to make sure the tumor hasn’t come back. So far, so good. The overall cure rate for Wilms tumor is 85%.
“Luckily, we caught it early,” says Terrence. “Hopefully, after a few years, we’ll be able to say Rhys is cancer-free and he can go about living a normal life.”