A father-of-two who was given just months left to live is now cancer-free following a “world’s first” operation.
Ivan Dagg, 53, is celebrating the end of a rollercoaster five years which at one point saw him given a 6% chance of surviving with chemotherapy treatment.
He first noticed something wasn’t right with his health in 2013 when he began losing weight and feeling constantly exhausted. After being diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer, Dagg saw his health deteriorate further when the cancer spread to his liver.
Despite multiple tumour removals and resections, things didn’t look good for the inspection engineer from Hull, East Yorkshire. But he underwent his final high-risk surgery at Spire Leeds Hospital in January 2018, which was hailed a “world-first” by doctors.
The operation was only possible after medics found Dagg had grown a new vein in his liver, opening up a new and previously unknown avenue to recovery for others with a similar condition.
Speaking about his experience, Dagg said: “The last few years have been a rollercoaster. I’m finally feeling positive about my future.
“I woke up after surgery and Professor Lodge told me he had been able to remove the tumour. That was fantastic to hear. Now I’m back at work and looking forward to the future with my family. Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future but I feel very lucky. There could have been a very different outcome.”
Dagg’s surgery was carried out by Professor Peter Lodge, who described the surgery as “very high risk”.
“This is a brand-new liver surgery operation, truly a world-first,” he said. “During Ivan’s three previous operations I had to remove major blood vessels called hepatic veins. The new tumour was involving all of the remaining hepatic veins. These major veins drain blood out of the liver and are essential for survival.
“I did not think that the situation was operable initially, but I saw that Ivan had grown a new vein in the part of the liver that had regenerated following the previous liver resection operations.
“Things went well so we were able to remove the tumour successfully along with the major hepatic veins, leaving Ivan’s liver surviving on only the new vein.
“If he had not grown a new vein then I would not have been able to do the surgery. This is a new avenue for developing new liver operations.”
Statistics from Cancer Research UK reflect the rareness of Dagg’s story. When diagnosed at stage 1, 95% of bowel cancer patients survive for at least one year. However, this drops to 40% of patients diagnosed at stage 4. In men, 95% of patients survive for at least five years when diagnosed at stage 1, but just 7% survive for five years when diagnosed at stage 4.
Professor Lodge said that there is still a lot medics do not know about how the liver regenerates after liver surgery.
“Ivan’s case demonstrates how we must be more imaginative and strive to improve outcomes as much as we can. Without surgery, Ivan would have been faced with having only a few months to live,” he said.
“I think that chemotherapy may have given him a few extra months but that’s all. It’s still early days but I’m very pleased with Ivan’s progress.”