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Pirates pitcher strikes back against cancer

Pirates pitcher strikes back against cancer


At age 25, Jameson Taillon of the Pittsburgh Pirates was at the top of his game. He was one of the best young starting pitchers in the National League. Then he noticed a mass in his left testicle. His trainers, family, and doctors quickly mobilized. Within days of his discovery, he had surgery at Allegheny General Hospital, part of Allegheny Health Network.

Five weeks later, he was back on the mound at PNC Park. Soon after, he delivered one of his best five-start stretches of his major league career. Living proof that with the right team behind you, a lead-off triple doesn’t have to lead to a bad inning.

The disabled list once again

When Jameson was diagnosed with cancer, it wasn’t the first time his health threatened his career. The second draft pick overall when he was picked up by the Pirates in 2010, he missed most of the 2014 and 2015 seasons because of injuries.

In 2014 he had Tommy John surgery, a common procedure done on collegiate and professional athletes. It is a reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. The following year he had hernia surgery. Then during a game in July of 2016, he was struck in the head by a ball clocked at 105 mph. He amazed fans by staying in the game and continuing to pitch after the incident.

Tough in a challenge

To say the least, Jameson is tough. At 6 foot 5, he seems unstoppable. But he is also known for his positive attitude and strong work ethic. He arrives early for practice at the ballpark every day. According to his doctor, his maturity and his ability to deal with challenges may have saved his life.

“He’s mature beyond his years,” said Jameson’s surgeon and urologist, John Lyne, MD. “He came in within days of finding a mass. The tumor was small and early. Men wait an average of 6 months before seeking medical help, according to literature.”

“He discovered a lump on a Tuesday. I got a call from Dr. Snell, we had the tumor markers done, and we operated the following Monday,” said Dr. Lyne. “A CT scan of his abdomen and pelvis showed no evidence of spread.”

Edward Snell, MD, is a team physician for the Pirates and an AHN sports medicine specialist. He performed the preliminary ultrasound that first confirmed the tumor. Doctors look for tumor markers in the blood of men with testicular cancers that are often elevated before surgery. AHN is the Pirates’ official medical provider. 

Back to the mound

According to Dr. Lyne, Jameson’s surgery was a success. He did not hesitate to clear Jameson when the righty wanted to pitch in a minor league rehab game less than 3 weeks after the procedure.

“With this surgery, there are no major muscles cut,” said Dr. Lyne. “Recovery is generally smooth.”

Now that his tumor markers have normalized, Dr. Lyne and Jameson’s oncologist, Shifeng Mao, MD, PhD agree that they are going to avoid additional surgery or chemotherapy, which could cause long-term effects for someone in his 20s. Instead they will keep a close watch on Jameson. They know chances are low that the cancer has spread to his lymph nodes.

Dr. Lyne describes Jameson as a “very sound individual” and is impressed with his ambition to help others. He supports Jameson’s desire to become an advocate for the early detection of testicular cancer.

“I would like to reiterate the recommendations of the American Cancer Society that states a testicular exam should be part of a regular physical. Males between 15 and 40 should do regular self-checks,” said Dr. Lyne. “Testicular cancer is very curable if it’s caught early.”

Fighting cancer on all fronts

The Pittsburgh Pirates organization trusts AHN to care for the health of its athletes because of its excellence in important areas of healthcare. For cancer care, the AHN Cancer Institute offers world-class expertise and innovation. By establishing elite partnerships and new care models, it has been able to bring services closer to home, improve outcomes, and lower costs for patients.

  • Through leadership with the National Cancer Institute and national and international cancer clinical trials groups, AHN pioneers ground-breaking advances in cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, genomics, and treatments for all cancers.
  • Through our relationship with Johns Hopkins Medicine, the AHN Cancer Institute has streamlined and guided access to hundreds of clinical trials. Johns Hopkins also offers second opinions for patients with rare and complex cancers without leaving western Pennsylvania.
  • AHN partners with the Highmark Cancer Collaborative, developing new protocols and processes to deliver the best care and financially sound reimbursement models that have been shown to cut costs by up to 35%*.
  • AHN navigation teams work 1:1 with patients and families, cutting an average of 5 weeks off of the care timeline from screening to diagnosis.
  • A new after-hours cancer clinic provides care when symptoms flare up, without an ER visit or hospital admission, protecting patients’ compromised immune systems.
  • A $200 million investment in AHN cancer care facilities and providers, announced in 2017, positions AHN as a national care leader into the future.

Read more

*Oncology Times: First Published Cost-Effectiveness Study of Evidence-Based Clinical Pathways Documents 35% Lower Costs with No Differences in Survival. March 10, 2010. Volume 32, Issue 5.

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Allegheny General Hospital