Hospital teams join forces to help kidney patient

Posted on in Services

Medical teams at The James Cook University Hospital have come together to help a kidney patient who was diagnosed with cancer.

When Makereta Cakaunitabua had her overactive thyroid taken out the last thing she expected was to be told that she had cancer.Makereta Cakaunitabua

Following her operation consultants tested part of the gland that was removed for any abnormalities, as they do with all patients, and quickly discovered that Makereta had thyroid cancer and told her that they needed to remove it.

The 39-year-old who lives in Catterick is no stranger to James Cook after being diagnosed with kidney failure in 2016.

“It was so overwhelming to already have kidney failure and then be told that I had cancer on top of that,” she said.

Makereta, who is currently studying a nursing degree, soon returned to the Middlesbrough hospital to have her thyroid completely removed.

Following surgery thyroid cancer patients are given radioactive iodine therapy to ablate any remaining thyroid tissue to reduce the risk of the cancer reoccurring.

This involves swallowing a single capsule of radioiodine which releases short range radiation that destroys the thyroid cells that have taken it up – removing the last remnants of the thyroid and any cancerous tissue. Any radioactive iodine not absorbed by the thyroid is usually quickly disposed of by the kidneys in urine.

But due to her kidney failure Makereta is unable to clear out any toxins from her body, meaning she has to have dialysis three times a week at home.

The hospital’s nuclear medicine team, her oncologist and nephrologist quickly worked together to come up with a solution and were able to offer the radioiodine therapy to Makereta, in the radioactive treatment room, while she was dialysing.

“The team at James Cook were able to give me radioiodine therapy at the same time as my dialysis to help dispose of the radiation. I was in the radioactive treatment room for four to five days. It was hard because I couldn’t see my son or husband but I’m so happy it worked,” she said.

“It felt strange because normally when I have dialysis the nurses would be right next to me but because I was in the radioactive treatment room they had to watch me from the other side of a glass window.

“It was a big relief to be able to get back to my husband and our son.”

Now, Makereta is cancer free, gaining more energy as the days go on and is looking forward to being able to go back onto the kidney transplant list.

Mark Richardson, head of nuclear medicine at James Cook said: “Post treatment scans confirmed uptake of radioactive iodine in the thyroid bed indicating that a therapeutic effect was delivered and the nuclear medicine staff remain confident that the modified regime will prove effective in Makereta’s thyroid treatment.

“We are very happy that teams across the hospital were able to work together to offer the best treatment possible and we are very pleased that Makereta is feeling better.”