Young Mom With Rare Cancer is McLaren Proton Therapy Center's 700th Patient to Graduate

Author: Sherry Farney

Dr. Tolutope Oyasiji

A relaxing visit with a close friend, back in August 2022, turned into a life-changing experience for Lauren Goza of Fenton.

The 28-year-old mother of two ignored a lump on her leg for more than a year, but her friend insisted she go to a doctor and get it checked out.

“If my friend wasn’t so adamant, I would have let it go even longer,” said Lauren. “I thought the lump was there because I had lost 100 pounds over the past year and was working out. She completely disagreed and made me make the call.”

Lauren’s primary care physician ordered an ultrasound, that led to even more testing. A biopsy confirmed the 6.5-by-3.5-inch growth on Lauren’s leg was cancerous, a liposarcoma.

Sarcomas are rare tumors that develop in the bones or in soft tissue, like muscle. There are more than 70 sarcoma subtypes. These cancers typically happen in young children and adolescents, but soft tissue sarcoma is most common in adults under 30. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about half of soft-tissue sarcomas start in an arm or leg. Roughly four in 10 starts in the abdomen or belly.

While it’s rare, sarcoma can also develop in the chest or neck. Soft tissue sarcomas include:

  • A new lump or a lump that is growing anywhere in the body
  • Abdominal pain that is getting worse
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Black, tarry stools

Dr. Christian Hyde
Lauren’s doctor immediately referred her to board-certified surgical oncologist Tolutope Oyasiji, MD, MRCSI, MHSA, FACS, at the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint.      

Before Lauren could have surgery, she needed radiation to shrink the tumor. Dr. Oyasiji told her Proton Therapy was an option, and referred her to board-certified radiation oncologist Christian Hyde, MD, DABR, at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center.

“Proton Therapy is a very focused and precise form of radiation, as compared to traditional X-ray therapy,” Dr. Hyde said. “Protons are tiny invisible particles that can literally ‘stop on a dime’ inside the body, unlike conventional X-rays that go in one side and out the other, making it possible to directly treat the tumor, while avoiding nearby healthy tissue.

"In Lauren’s case, proton therapy really helped us reduce the amount of her normal bone that was radiated, as well as to avoid her opposite, totally healthy leg. It was very gratifying to watch her tumor shrink on the daily images that we obtained during proton therapy,” Dr. Hyde recalled. “We don’t always see that. I’m glad she had such a good response.”          

 In December 2022, once proton therapy successfully shrunk Lauren’s tumor, Dr. Oyasiji, removed it.

Lauren is still recovering from surgery and will meet with Dr. Hyde again to find out whether she’ll need further proton therapy treatments. “I appreciate all of the staff for helping me navigate through my journey and look forward to being cancer-free very soon,” said Lauren.

Lauren is the 700th patient treated at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center since it opened in December 2018. She has a true friend to thank for being part of this clinical milestone, and so many more personal ones in the years to come.