66-year-old Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi patient’s itchy skin signaled gallbladder cancer

Dale Yost

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi schoolteacher Dale Yost didn’t suspect even for a minute that a sudden itch all over his body could be anything more than a simple dermatological issue. The 66-year-old resident thought that the pills and creams prescribed by a dermatologist would solve the problem. But when the itching persisted, he began worrying.

Additional bloodwork and scans done at the first hospital that he visited when the symptoms began revealed that he was suffering from gallbladder and bile duct cancer.

“It sounds so strange that an itch can be a sign of cancer,” says Dale. “They could tell by the scans that my bile ducts were plugged and so all the bile was building in my body and causing jaundice and the itchiness. The doctors twice tried to put stents in so that the bile could flow into the small bowel again, with no luck.”

He says they then tried a biliary drain, a procedure where bile is collected in a bag outside of the body. “I had that pouch on me for a couple of weeks before the hospital recommended that I transfer to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for the complex surgery to remove the cancer.”

Dr Naveed Ahmed, the Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary surgeon (liver, pancreas, and bile duct) in the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – an integral part of Mubadala Health – who treated Dale with a multidisciplinary team of physicians, dieticians, and wound care nurses in November 2020, says their attempt to clear the blocked bile ducts and relieve the symptoms of jaundice with stents was a success. This approach was necessary to continue his treatment to remove the cancer.

The team had to carry out a central hepatectomy, where they had to not only remove the bile duct and gallbladder completely, but also had to resect three-quarters of Dale’s liver to cure him.

“About 90 percent of gallbladder cancers are unresectable, so treating Dale with this procedure is quite uncommon. The surgery required a lot of technical capability and a team with expertise in interventional radiology, advanced endoscopy, gastroenterology and wound care.”

Dr. Ahmed explains that the decision to remove such a significant portion of the liver is only done in rare cases.

“If the tumor is on the periphery, you only need to remove the diseased portion, but for central tumors, we have to remove the healthy part of the liver as well to prevent it from spreading.”

The liver is the only organ in the human body that can regenerate. But Dr. Ahmed says that depends on how much of the liver can be saved.

“If the remnant is small for the size of the patient, it can be fatal. In Dale’s case, where the cancer had spread outside the liver, a transplant was not an option either. We were lucky that we could preserve a healthy portion, making it possible to save his liver.”

Dale’s liver-related tests show that his liver has grown to a normal size and is functioning at an optimum level. He is now undergoing chemotherapy to treat the cancer in his lymph nodes.

Dale, who is a father of three and grandfather to 10, plans to retire at the end of the year. He says that his family wanted him to return to his home in Canada earlier for treatment.

“If this had happened back home, I would have avoided seeing a doctor because of the wait times to get an appointment. The healthcare in Abu Dhabi, and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in particular, is superior. You just walk in and an integrated team of physicians, surgeons, dieticians and wound care nurses are by your side to aid your recovery.”

For more information or to book an appointment at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, call 800 222 33, visit or download the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi app.

About Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi:

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements unique to the Abu Dhabi population.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has the following Institutes: Heart & Vascular, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, Respiratory, Critical Care, Surgical Subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, Quality & Patient Safety, and Clinical & Nursing. In all, more than 40 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 394 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides patients in the region direct access to the world’s best healthcare providers and Cleveland Clinic’s unique model of care, reducing their need to travel abroad for treatment.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – Al Ain began offering select medical services in December 2017. The facility is located on the Tawam Hospital Campus in Al Ain.

About Mubadala Health:

Mubadala Health is the integrated healthcare network of Mubadala Investment Company. Established 2021, Mubadala Health operates, manages, and develops a portfolio of healthcare assets including: Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre (ADTC), Amana Healthcare, Capital Health Screening Centre (CHSC), Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), and National Reference Laboratory (NRL). In addition, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is an integral part of Mubadala Health.

With a vision to transform the regional healthcare landscape, Mubadala Health sets a new benchmark for the UAE and regional healthcare industry through its state-of-the-art facilities and world-class caregivers who strive to put patients first across its continuum of care. Innovation, research, and education are the foundational pillars of Mubadala Health, supporting the further development of a sustainable healthcare sector in line with the vision of Abu Dhabi and the region.