How Dyker man with rare cancer beat the odds

DYKER HEIGHTS — Louis Battaglia feels lucky to be alive.

Battaglia, a 58-year-old Dyker Heights resident, was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer. After lots of prayers from friends and family and lots of help from doctors at NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn, he’s on the road to recovery.

“Many people go years dealing with stomach pain without seeing a doctor, and sometimes it’s too late to do anything. I’m so grateful that wasn’t the case with me,” he said in a statement.

What’s more, Battaglia didn’t have to undergo debilitating chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Dr. Camilo Correa, a general surgical oncologist at NYU Langone, saved Battaglia’s life by performing just one operation to remove the cancerous tissue. Correa used both traditional surgical techniques and robotic surgery to reduce recovery time for his patient.

Battaglia had Stage 4 Leiomyosarcoma, a cancer that accounts for less than one percent of all adult cancers in the U.S. The cancer had also entered his liver.

“It was a malignant tumor involving part of the liver,” said Correa, who completed a fellowship in complex surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

“We were able to completely remove the tumor, and he has been recovering exceptionally well without chemotherapy or radiation,” Correa said.

“Technological advances have greatly reduced the necessity for major interventions that may cause post-operative complications,” said Dr. Prashant Sinha, chief of surgery at NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn.

Battaglia, who works in sales at P.C. Richard and Sons, first realized something was wrong in October of 2018 when he started having severe abdominal pains. He initially thought it might be appendicitis. After an emergency room visit and a series of doctor appointments, his pain persisted.

He wasn’t given a diagnosis until he visited a specialist at NYU Langone.

“I was told this type of cancer doesn’t get picked up so easily,” Battaglia said.

Dr. Adam Goodman and the gastroenterology team at NYU Langone diagnosed Battaglia’s cancer and used an endoscopic ultrasound to pinpoint the size and location of the tumor. Endoscopic ultrasound is also used to obtain tissue samples for biopsy, a medical advancement that reduces the number of diagnostic visits a patient has to make.

“Endoscopy ultrasound is just one of a sophisticated set of tools we use to detect and evaluate gastrointestinal malignancies,” said Goodman, section chief of gastroenterology and director of endoscopy and quality at NYU Langone.

Battaglia, a devout Catholic who is a member of Saint Ephrem Church on Fort Hamilton Parkway, credited prayer and the support of his older sister Rose Mauriello and his coworkers at P.C. Richard and Son with helping him through his ordeal.

His brush with cancer changed his life, he said. “Dr. Correa told me to take it easy, eat healthier, and quit smoking, so I stopped cold turkey,” he said.

Battaglia said he plans to support other cancer patients by telling his story and attending group counseling sessions. “I want to spend more of my time talking to people. The best thing we can do with the time we have left is to try to treat each other with kindness and respect,” he said.

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