Gigantism May Be Death Sentence for Nevada Woman After Brain Surgery Deemed Too Risky

Gigantism May Be Death Sentence for Nevada Woman After Docs Declare Brain Surgery Too Risky

The Nevada woman suffering from gigantism who was counting on brain surgery to save her life now faces an uncertain future after doctors deemed the procedure too risky.

Tanya Angus, 31, was slated to travel to California for surgery late last month, but has learned the the size and location of the tumor on her pituitary gland leaves her at grave risk for paralysis or even death if she goes in for surgery.

VIDEO: Doctors tell Tanya Angus that a potentially lifesaving surgery is too dangerous.
No Surgery for Woman with Gigantism

"My heart just bottomed out," Angus' mother, Karen Strutynski, told "She's kind of accepted the fact that there's nothing more they can do for her other than take her medicine."

At 6-feet 11-inches and 372 pounds, Angus was of normal height and weight unti her early 20s, when a tumor on her pituitary gland caused her to grow uncontrollably. The condition is known as acromegaly. Hers is the only documented case in the world in which surgery and medications cannot control her growth.

It was the family's hope that doctors would be able to remove enough of the tumor that one of Angus' medications would allow to live another 10 to 20 years.

Now, Strutynski said, her daughter's life expectancy is only for another few years.

"You never give up hope. You never truly give up hope," she said. "If anything happens to her, no, I'm not prepared."

And talking about what may be the inevitable "doesn't make it any easier," she said. "It's dreadful."

She has already had three surgeries. One 13-hour operation nearly killed her, and another caused a stroke that took away most of her hearing.

Dr. John Atkinson, professor of neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, hasn't treated Angus, but said today that it is not uncommon for tumors to wrap around the carotid artery if they get too big, as is the case with Angus.

"If they cannot get it under control ... then it will kill her eventually," he said.

For gigantism patients who can be treated safely, they can live a long life with proper medical care, though their distorted features are unlikely to change much, save for a thinning of the tissues.

Patients left untreated, or in rare cases like Angus', ineligible for treatment, will eventually succumb, Atkinson said. He said the problem will not be the tumor, but complications caused by the growth hormone as it floods the body's systems.

Strutynski said her daughter's doctors are now considering another round of radiation -- her last was in 2003 -- to keep the tumor at bay.

Tanya Angus' Case Inspired Paramedics, Doctors to Get Involved

The surgery was to have been the last step in an arduous process. It had been a challenge just to arrange to get Angus from Nevada to California for the surgery.

After hearing Angus' story, paramedics and staff at American Medical Response, an ambulance firm, began calling and e-mailing their bosses, who responded by providing a specialty care transport vehicle that can accommodate Tanya.

"A vehicle like this offers the extra room to make the ride comfortable for her," AMR operations manager Chad Henry told ABC's Las Vegas affiliate KTNV.

The company had offered the super-sized vehicle for free, complete with a trained medical team, for the five-hour ride to Santa Monica.

At the time Strutynski said just the act of getting her daughter to California gave her hope.

Angus had also received numerous financial donations to cover food and lodging during and after her surgery.

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