Robotic Surgery Helps Young Father Triumph Over Kidney Cancer

Alex Tamargo, a resident of Woburn, MA, began experiencing symptoms such as fevers, night sweats, and rapid weight loss in November 2022. For more than six months, physicians weren’t able to make sense of his symptoms. Finally, a full-body scan revealed a 7-centimeter cancerous mass on one of his kidneys. At 38 years old, Alex was diagnosed with kidney cancer. This prompted a referral to Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center.

Kidney cancer patient with family. The news was unsettling, especially considering his young age and young family at home. At the time of his diagnosis, Alex was the father of two children, a three-year-old daughter, and a twelve-month-old son.

At Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, Alex received a formal diagnosis of Stage I clear cell renal cell carcinoma. And even though the cancer had progressed, it hadn't spread to other organs or lymph nodes.

A keystone factor that had originally delayed Alex’s diagnosis was one warning sign that doctors look for, blood in the urine, a symptom that he never developed. Also, his young age made him an unlikely candidate for this diagnosis. Although it’s the most common type of kidney cancer, clear cell renal cell carcinoma usually affects people between 50 and 70 years old.

Under the care of Timothy Clinton, MD, a urologist specializing in robotic surgery for testicular, bladder and kidney cancer, Alex underwent robotic surgery to remove the kidney and cancerous mass. Using cutting-edge robotic platforms, Dr. Clinton applied a minimally invasive technique that allowed him to make an incision through the back, rather than through the abdomen. This retroperitoneal approach typically allows for less blood loss and quicker recovery time.

Normal recovery after a traditional surgery (non-minimally invasive surgery) would take about a month, and patients usually start feeling back to normal after about two weeks. Thanks to the advanced surgical technique performed by Dr. Clinton, Alex’s hospital stay was brief, lasting only two days. Following surgery, he experienced a quick recovery and was able to resume work starting with a few hours each day after only a week.

Happily, Alex is now cancer-free having only needed surgery and surveillance every six months, which will continue for a minimum of five years. He expresses gratitude for the compassionate care he received from the hospital staff, who went above and beyond to support him during his recovery, particularly the nurses who helped to keep him connected with his family via video calls with his daughter.

In sharing his story, Alex hopes to raise awareness about the importance of seeking medical attention when symptoms arise and to inspire others to prioritize their well-being. “If you’re not feeling well, don’t put it off, talk to your doctor,” Alex said. “I know it’s not easy, but it saved my life.”.

A lover of travel and sports, and the COO of a restaurant group based in Newton, Alex looks forward to continuing to enjoy life's simple, but most important pleasures, like seeing his young children grow up. “I am back to having energy and feeling like myself and being able to play with the kids,” said Alex. “Yeah, I'm still tired, but normal tired because I have young kids, but I feel just like a whole new person. I know this is kind of an everyday thing for Dr. Clinton, but he's our hero around our house”.

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