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Richmond man recovers from rare form of skin cancer

Photo of Timothy Vance who took proactive steps to protect his health and as a result, is now cancer free. (Photo courtesy of Vance family)
Timothy Vance took proactive steps to protect his health and as a result, is now cancer free. (Photo courtesy of Vance family)

Timothy Vance does a lot of driving in his position as an asset protection specialist with a well-known convenience store chain. During one of these road trips in late 2019, he noticed that sitting for these long periods of time was becoming painful.

The husband and father of two from Richmond, Texas, discovered the source of his discomfort: a lump near his anal region.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” said Vance. “I honestly thought I had a cyst or an ingrown hair, and it would go away on its own.”

Being proactive about his health

Unfortunately, the lump became harder and grew larger, so Vance decided to seek medical attention. He made an appointment with a dermatologist who then referred him to Amit Agarwal, MD, a colon and rectal surgeon with UT Physicians.

After examining Vance, Agarwal, an assistant professor of colon and rectal surgery in the Department of Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, decided it was best to perform a biopsy to determine if the lump was cancerous.

Biopsy revealed cancer

“The biopsy revealed that Mr. Vance had a rare form of skin cancer known as dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans or DFSP,” said Agarwal. “This is a type of cancer that develops deep in the skin. It often invades surrounding tissue, muscle, and sometimes bone.”

The best treatment route was surgery, so in July of this year – in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic – Vance had an operation to remove the lesion. The edges, or margins, of the tissue removed were biopsied to make sure that no cancer cells were missed in the surgery. Afterward, Agarwal received confirmation that the deep margin came back positive for cancer. Another operation was scheduled immediately for the following month.

This time the surgery was fully successful, and Vance’s margins came back negative.

Making surgery bearable during COVID-19

“Mr. Vance’s case illustrates why it’s important to be proactive about your health when you notice something just isn’t right or is causing you pain,” said Agarwal. “Fortunately, he took action early, and we can now declare him disease-free.”

Vance, who enjoys woodworking, being outdoors, and spending time with his five grandchildren, was grateful he sought medical attention when he did.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Vance said. “If I had continued to ignore it, the outcome could have been so much worse.”

Vance remembers how isolating it was to have surgery and not have his family around because of the pandemic.

Agarwal and his team made the experience more bearable by frequent visits and constant communication.

“I was impressed with Dr. Agarwal and how he took care of me,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better physician.”

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