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Fargo man receives groundbreaking procedure at MeritCare

The first sign that something was awry with John Jambois' abdomen was a hernia that popped one day while he was jogging.

A few weeks later his surgeon came back with bad news: Testing and diagnostic surgery determined he had cancer in the lining of his abdomen.

That discovery six years ago was the beginning of a medical odyssey that, after two major operations and a recurrence of the cancer, has reached a happy conclusion for the retired Fargo executive.

His first treatment for the abdominal cancer, involving surgery and traditional chemotherapy, was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Although the surgery was successful, Jambois was warned the cancer could return.

The unwelcome news came last year, after Jambois had developed digestive problems. Once again, he required surgery and chemotherapy to save his life.

This time, last May, Jambois had a procedure called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, by Dr. Robert Sticca, a cancer surgeon at Fargo MeritCare.

Jambois, 63, founder and former president of Tecton Products, remains cancer-free and took time Friday with Sticca to talk about the procedure, now performed in perhaps 50 major medical centers.

"Dr. Sticca deserves a lot of credit for what he's done here," Jambois said. Sticca, who heads the surgery program at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, started performing the procedure in 1997, when he was in South Carolina.

Patients are referred to him from throughout the Upper Midwest and as far away as China for the procedure.

When Sticca began his surgical career 20 years ago, cancers in the abdominal cavity often were fatal. Medical science could offer little intervention.

But technological innovations, including better pumps, now allow HIPEC to effectively treat certain cancers confined to the abdomen, including gastric, colorectal, appendix and ovarian.

A CAT scan at the Mayo Clinic recently determined that Jambois remains cancer free. "They were thrilled with my appearance," he said, recalling the reaction of his doctors there. One wrote in his report, "This is a stunning result."

Sticca, meanwhile, finds more and more colleagues who have turned to the technique. "More and more people are getting on the bandwagon now because they realize it's successful," he said.