Cancer survivor credits UConn Health doctors for determination to find answers

A trip to the emergency room at UConn John Dempsey Hospital for severe jaundice led to the diagnosis of a bile duct blockage for Jay Buth of Avon. After some further research, a stent was placed in the bile duct and his gallbladder removed.

When the stent was removed from his bile duct, he collapsed and ended up back in the emergency room where a CT scan was performed and accidentally found a visible mass on Buth’s pancreas.

Buth followed up with Dr. Murali Dharan, assistant professor of Gastroenterology at UConn Health, who ordered a PET scan. The PET scan indicated that the tumor was at a very early stage and was localized to the pancreas providing a good prognosis.

“What I love about UConn Health is that they kept looking and they weren’t satisfied until they found the answer,” says Buth.

During digestion, the pancreas produces pancreatic juices called enzymes. These enzymes break down sugars, fats and starches. Your pancreas also helps your digestive system by producing hormones. Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the pancreas, and pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco
  • Being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Workplace exposure to certain chemicals
  • Age – Most patients are over 45 years old. About two thirds are at least 65 years old. The mean age at the time of diagnosis is 70 years.
  • Gender: Men are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women.
  • Race – African Americans are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than whites.
  • Family history
  • Hereditary genetic syndromes


  • Abdominal pain that radiates to the back.
  • Loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss.
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Light colored stools.
  • Dark colored urine.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Newly diagnosed diabetes or existing diabetes which is becoming more difficult to control.
  • Blood clots.

Buth met with Dr. Pragna Kapadia, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at UConn Health, and Dr. David McFadden, professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at UConn Health to determine her treatment plan.

Jay Buth and his wife as a recent concert.

Buth started what would have been eight rounds of chemotherapy that will be followed by a combination of chemo-radiation. He was fortunate to have no major side effects from chemotherapy which included five hours at the infusion center and another 48 hours at home.

“Besides cancer, I was in the best shape of my life,” says Buth.

From there, Buth will have a Whipple (pancreaticoduodenectomy) procedure this summer. This is the most common operation to remove cancer in the pancreatic head. During this operation, the surgeon removes the head of the pancreas and sometimes the body of the pancreas as well. Nearby structures are also removed such as part of the small intestine, part of the bile duct, gallbladder, lymph nodes near the pancreas, and sometimes part of the stomach. The remaining bile duct and pancreas are then attached to the small intestine so that bile and digestive enzymes can still enter the small intestine. The end parts of the small intestine (or the stomach and small intestine) are then reattached so that food can pass through the digestive tract (intestine).

Judith Cooney PhD, a health psychologist and associate professor of psychiatry at UConn Health’s Cancer Center practices health psychology, a specialty area that applies psychological principles and evidence-based treatments to help manage the psychosocial impact of problems medical and health care and to change health behaviors.

In health psychology, Cooney works with cancer patients at all stages of treatment to help cope with cancer, assessment and diagnosis, treatment and post-acute treatment during survival to come back to life and thrive after. the cancer.

“Often, survival is the chapter of the cancer journey that receives the least support,” says Dr. Cooney. “It’s a transformative and scary time after cancer changed their lives.”

Cooney worked with Buth to help him cope with the anguish of his difficult cancer diagnosis and difficult acute treatment phases and their work will continue into the post-treatment phase.

“Mr. Buth was fantastic in learning ways to manage anguish, transform and grow through cancer,” says Cooney. “His story is a source of inspiration.”

Buth, who sees Cooney weekly, says, “She’s great and has helped me on many levels beyond cancer.”

Buth now has a new perspective on life, focusing on the little things, the important people in his life and finding joy in everything. He credits the tools in the “toolkit” that Cooney provided him to overcome this problem with a positive outlook.

“If I hadn’t had a problem with the gallbladder trying to kill me, we may not have found it so soon, it actually saved me,” Buth says. “We’d have a very different conversation now if he wasn’t found so soon.”

“I’m over the moon with UConn’s care, it’s world-class,” says Buth. “I love nurses and I can’t say enough about how wonderful they are – they do God’s work.”

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