Medical Device Embedded Under Scalp Helps Battle Brain Cancer

Doctors place device under Chula Vista woman's scalp to help her fight brain cancer

NBC Universal, Inc.

While the fight against COVID-19 dominates headlines, the fight against cancer is a decades-old battle still being fought by millions of people every day.

“In 2019, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized into my brain, into my bones,” Francine Maigue said.

The Chula Vista resident never smoked, and her family doesn’t have a history of lung cancer. She underwent radiation and chemotherapy at Sharp Chula Vista’s Barnhart Cancer Center.

“But then, all of a sudden, I was having these terrible headaches,” Maigue recalled. “What developed was leptomeningeal disease, which means that the cancer had metastasized into my meninges and into my cerebral spinal fluid. Those are things that are meant to protect our brain and our spine and, unfortunately, they turned on me.”

So Sharp doctors turned to something the Barnhart Cancer Center never used before.

“I have an Ommaya reservoir -- it’s a device that’s made completely of silicone and it’s in my head,” Maigue said, chuckling as she pointed to the top of her head.

The Ommaya reservoir rests under the skin and delivers chemotherapy directly to the cancer in the brain.

“For most of us, this is a very new procedure,” said Barnhart Cancer Center nurse Theresa Hermosura.

Without the Ommaya reservoir, Hermosura said, Maigue would have to get weekly injections in her back.

“It’s a big difference,” said fellow nurse Jennice Tolentino. “Lumbar punctures: They’re no fun. They’re uncomfortable.”

“Nobody wants to have that done over and over again,” Maigue agreed.

Maigue said she shared her story with NBC 7 to remind people lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer of men and women around the world. She has a genetic mutation that caused her cancer to grow.

“EGFR is the biomarker that, when mutated, then affects Asian women, and nobody’s talked about it,” Maiguesaid.

Sharp Chula Vista said the mutation is found in roughly 30% of all Asian women.

“I’m an active participant in my medical team and in my health journey,” Maigue concluded. “Do your research. Ask your questions.”

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