Healthcare Heroes patient has football-sized tumor removed

The football-sized tumor on the back of Brent Jackson’s right thigh was a puzzle to the surgeon and pathologist who examined it at Community Regional Medical Center in a January biopsy surgery that was featured on the nationally syndicated Healthcare Heroes TV show. It turned out to be an aggressive muscle cancer usually found in children.

On March 29, the tumor was removed and Jackson, 22, is expected to fully recover and return to his graduate studies in geology at California State University, Fresno.

“It’s gone,” said his wife Jenny Jackson. “The surgeons said it was like taking out a big balloon and they only had to take a little of his hamstring muscle. They didn’t even have to touch any of the sciatic nerve.”

Community’s Dr. Christina Maser, who did the initial biopsy surgery, said Brent Jackson was lucky because, although the tumor had grown quickly from quarter-sized to melon-sized in about two months, the cancer had not spread.

Chemotherapy helped shrink the tumor before it was removed by a pediatric cancer specialist at UCSF Medical Center, recommended by Dr. Maser. Community Medical Centers has a strong partnership with the University of California, San Francisco, and trains about 200 residents and fellows each year in the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program. Dr. Maser is an assistant clinical professor of surgery for UCSF.

During the ordeal, the newly-married couple’s family back in Michigan was able to view that initial diagnosis and the couple’s reaction via the nationally-syndicated Healthcare Heroes reality TV show, which is filmed entirely at Community hospitals.

His aunt Debbie Travis said it was a comfort to her to be able to see Brent on TV even though she realized he had actually underestimated the size of the tumor in phone calls.

“Brent told his mother it was about the size of half a cantaloupe, but on TV they said it was ‘football-sized’ and then when I saw it in the surgery I couldn’t believe how big it was.”

Jenny Jackson said her husband would have to undergo another round of chemotherapy and follow-up radiation once they returned to Fresno. She said they were looking forward to getting back to their studies and graduate teaching at the university.


This story was reported by Erin Kennedy. She can be reached at ekennedy@communitymedical.org.