For Sonia López, a 57-year-old woman, the removal of a huge tumor gave her a new chance at life. On Monday, January 29th, 2018, a team of specialists from Hospital Mexico in San José, removed an ovarian cyst she had been carrying in her abdomen for the last 8 years. The 2-and-a-half-hour long intervention not only achieved the removal of the tumor but also initiated a satisfactory recovery process as the non-malignant growth was destroying her liver and intestinal system.
A Twit from the Costa Rican Social Security Fund read:
“The patient, for personal reasons, did not want to have an operation 8 years ago when she was diagnosed with an ovarian. She went to consultation again last week because she had serious difficulties in breathing. It was a complete and absolute decision of the patient not to be intervened before”.
The tumor was identified as a neoplasm. These are “abnormal masses of tissue that result when cells divide more than they should or don’t die when they should”. This one was huge. It was 40 centimeters wide, with a height of 30 centimeters, and a weight of 34 kilos. Before the operación, the woman weighed 123 kilos. The tumor made up of 27% of Sonia’s total mass.
The tumor’s extraordinary weight surprised the medical team. An official statement by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) indicated that, to date, this growth was estimated to exceed the size of the largest tumors extracted anywhere else.
Dr. Pablo Sibaja, from the Hospital’s Surgical Emergency Service, said that they have had experience in the removal of large tumors but never one as big as this. On the other hand, he recalled that the Guinness Book of Records mentions the removal of a giant tumor weighing about 30 kilos.
According to Ms. Lopez, she went to the health center with an intense suffering and labored breath. After going thru a battery of different tests during 2 days, doctors decided that the tumor was indeed life-threatening. The huge volume of this neoplasm prevented the use of CAT scans, as Sonia would not fit into the machine.
Dr. Sibaja, the specialist in charge of the case, also explained that X-ray exams did not provide clear images that allowed him to make a better-informed decision. However, upon reviewing the case, the doctors decided to go ahead anyway and requested blood donors to be ready in the event of an intervention. Between Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th, they prepared the surgical site, getting it ready for the intervention on Monday. He explained that the operation was very complex and that it had required the participation of 3 surgeons and 2 anesthesiologists.
Actually, it was necessary that 2 surgeons held the tumor up while the rest of the team identified which blood vessels it was attached to in order to make the incisions that allowed the extraction of the cyst.
An encouraging testimony
Sonia López expressed satisfaction with the results of the operation. She said that she was born again because the suffering caused by the tumor during these last days was quite intense, by difficulting her breathing a great deal. She also expressed her desire to start working as soon as possible to recover a sense of normality in her life.
For Costa Ricans, Sonia López’s experience is encouraging as it serves as the indicator of the medical progress of the public health sector in this Central American country. They can be sure that Social security assistance has the equipment and the specialized personnel to handle these complex cases.
Why Hospital Mexico?
Hospital Mexico, where the operation was performed, is one of the most important public hospitals in Costa Rica. According to Wikipedia, the hospital is located in the district of Uruca, to the west of San José, very close to the canton of Tibás. The 633-bed hospital is operated by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund and it is certified for trauma and emergency medical services.
Sonia’s experience goes to show that the medical practice in Costa Rica’s social security system is optimal and there is no precedent for an operation as complex as this in the country. In Latin America, there are few nations that have efficient health centers and services. Costa Rica represents an exception to the rule and it is an icon in the field of social healthcare in the continent.