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Fighting cancer was Alex Nagy's toughest battle

Bookmark and Share Alex Nagy escaped harsh Communist rule and built a successful life in the United States. He thought he left the war long behind him, until he met the greatest enemy he'd ever face - cancer.

Alex Nagy of Tabernacle, NJ, has overcome many struggles in his life and has been face-to-face with death many times. But he never imagined that a small mass of cells in his body would be the biggest threat to his life.

"For years I had bothersome heartburn, but my doctor and I kept an eye on it with yearly endoscopies," says Nagy. During an endoscopy, a physician guides a thin scope with a light and camera at its tip to look inside the upper digestive system. Nagy recalls the endoscopy findings: "The procedure went smoothly until the surgeon got to the bottom of my esophagus and found a mass in my stomach."

Soon after, Nagy underwent another endoscopy and further testing to find out what the mass was. That's when he got the devastating news. He recalls what the doctor said like it was yesterday: "It's esophageal cancer."

Exploring cancer treatment options
If esophageal cancer is caught early, it can usually be treated successfully. "In Mr. Nagy's case, he underwent the standard treatment of chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy to shrink the tumor," says Michael Entmacher, MD, Fox Chase Virtua Health Cancer Program medical oncologist.

The final step of treatment was surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. Through the Fox Chase Virtua Health Cancer Program's partnership with the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, physicians from both organizations work together to treat complex cases such as Nagy's. Dr. Entmacher referred Nagy to a Fox Chase surgeon who specializes in cancer of the esophagus and stomach.

To everyone's surprise, the surgeon found another type of cancer called gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) in Nagy's stomach. "GIST is a rare form of malignant tumor that usually arises in and around a digestive organ," says Dr. Entmacher. While shocked by the news, Nagy said that he was comforted knowing he had the best team of doctors caring for him.

Keeping up the fight
It's been almost two years since his cancer diagnosis and Nagy is doing well. "I'm back to my normal activities. Sometimes I forget that I'm living with cancer," he says. He's like others living with a lifelong disease, such as diabetes or arthritis. He manages his cancer by taking a daily oral chemotherapy medication, living a healthy lifestyle and seeing his doctor for regular checkups.

"I have been committed to beating this cancer since the day I was diagnosed," says Nagy. And that's just what he's doing. Nagy's GIST has shrunk to one third the size it was, and he continues to take his chemotherapy drugs. "I am lucky to have had such wonderful, compassionate and knowledgeable physicians caring for me. They saved my life, and I am so thankful for them," says Nagy.


Michael Entmacher,MD, is a boardcertified hematologistoncologist and a Fox Chase Virtua Health Cancer Program oncologist. He earned his medical degree, completed an internship and residency in general medicine, and a fellowship in hematology and oncology at Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Entmacher also completed a residency in general medicine at Ohio State University.