• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: The bump turned out to be a brain tumor

October 27, 2019
Sharing Mayo Clinic brain tumor patient Tony DeGange with his wife in a medical office, looking at skull model

A retired auto parts salesman and stock car mechanic, 69-year-old Tony DeGange always has had a head for engines. But he never envisioned the possibility of actually using something from inside his head to power one of his motorized creations.

Thanks to a souvenir he received after Mayo Clinic surgeons successfully removed his grapefruit-sized brain tumor, that's now one of the pursuits the Valdosta, Georgia, native is considering.

"I'm working on a go-kart engine for the son of a friend of mine, and I think I can use it as a filter for the carburetor," Tony says, of the piece of titanium mesh that was placed after surgery to serve as a temporary seal between his skull and brain. "We'll give it a try and see how it goes."

A timely haircut

For years, Tony was aware of a bump on his head. He never paid much attention to it, though, until his barber pointed out that it seemed to be changing. "He said: 'Tony, I think it's growing. You better have it looked at,'" Tony recalls.

Tony saw a local neurologist and neurosurgeon, and they confirmed it was more than a bump. Tony had a meningioma — a tumor that forms on membranes that cover the brain, just inside the skull. Many meningiomas are slow-growing, and most are not cancerous.

Wanting another opinion, Tony visited a different medical center. The treatment recommended there was not appealing. "(The surgeon) described a technique that would leave me with an open wound for quite a while," Tony says. "I just thought there had to be something better."

"If something wasn't done, he would definitely have had mobility deficits in his face, arm and leg." Dr. Rabih Tawk

On the advice of a neighbor and encouragement from his wife, Maxine, Tony decided to visit Mayo Clinic in Florida. "I had always heard that Mayo Clinic was the place to go, and our neighbor had a terrific experience there, so I thought we should give it a try," Maxine says. "I'm glad we did."

Watch: The bump that turned out to be brain cancer.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (3:18) is in the downloads at the end of the post. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network." 

It was a timely decision. Tony's care team at Mayo Clinic found that his tumor not only was large, it was invading critical areas of his brain. Soon it would have a serious impact on his health and quality of life.

"Tony's tumor had grown through bone, invaded brain tissue, and it was pressing on very important areas of his brain that affect motor function," says Rabih Tawk, M.D., a neurosurgeon who was part of Tony's Mayo care team. "If something wasn't done, he would definitely have had mobility deficits in his face, arm and leg."

Read the rest of Tony's story.
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.