In the summer of 2019, Jane Arndt of Emmaus was happily enjoying fun-filled days at the local pool with friends and looking forward to her 73rd birthday bash in September. She felt great.
Then in August, Arndt got the shock of her life. One night in the bathroom she was horrified to see bright red blood in her urine. “I was very scared because I had no pain or fever, and I’d just gotten a clean bill of health from my primary care doctor,” she says.
Unusual diagnosis, unique treatment
A friend rushed her to the ER at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) where a PET scan revealed a mass on her bladder. Further testing in the following weeks suggested the tumor might be malignant. “I was devastated,” she says.
In mid-September, urologist James Johannes, MD, with LVPG Urology, performed a biopsy (transurethral resection) that confirmed she had bladder cancer. But it wasn’t the typical kind known as transitional cell carcinoma, which usually affects the entire bladder and requires its complete removal (radical cystectomy). Instead, Arndt had a rare type of bladder cancer called urachal adenocarcinoma that arises in a structure called the urachus connecting the belly button and bladder in a developing fetus. Normally it disappears before birth, but in some people it remains, occasionally turning cancerous in adulthood.
The diagnosis was serious, but there was positive news. Because urachal tumors typically grow in only one area of the bladder, Johannes explained she was a good candidate for minimally invasive robotic surgery to remove just the tumor (partial cystectomy).
“I’d been on an emotional roller coaster for weeks,” she says, “but now I felt hopeful.”