Menu Thoracic & Foregut Surgery Meet Your Thoracic Doctors Lung Conditions Lung Cancer in Kentucky Lung Cancer Screenings Mesothelioma Esophageal Conditions Achalasia Esophageal Cancer Esophageal Diverticulum Esophageal Perforation GERD Leiomyoma Motility Disorders Paraesophageal/Hiatal Hernias Other Chest Conditions Patient Success Stories The White Ribbon Project Getting Back to What Matters Most Ginny Hamlin is no stranger to lung cancer: She’s battled the disease three times. And when it came back the fourth time, she wanted to know all her options. “I was first diagnosed in January 2007 and did 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 35 rounds of radiation,” Ginny shares. “It was gone for seven years, and then returned in 2014. That’s when I had surgery to remove a small portion of my lung. The cancer came back for a third time a year later, and another small piece of my lung was removed. When it returned for the fourth time, two years later, my doctor sent me to get a second opinion.” However, Ginny didn’t like what she heard when meeting with doctors and surgeons at a leading hospital in Central Ohio. “The team at the other hospital saw cancer had come back and wanted me to have surgery – and soon,” she says. “They had a surgeon waiting to talk to us, but it just didn’t feel right. There was a lot of pressure to sign up for surgery and to schedule pre-op tests at a place that wasn’t close to home.” It wasn’t only the inconvenience of having to travel far from home for care, but also the impact surgery would have on her life. Ginny describes herself as an active 66-year-old retiree who wears a lot of hats and enjoys each one. So, Ginny applied another lesson learned in life and during her previous battles with cancer – she spoke up and talked with her oncologist, sharing her misgivings about the advice she received. It was during that second conversation that Ginny’s physician sent her to another leading expert in lung cancer– this time to Royce Calhoun, MD, medical director for thoracic surgery at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “It was clear that Ginny wanted to lead an active, fulfilling life,” says Dr. Calhoun. “While surgery was possible, and in an academic sense was a good option, it would have ultimately hurt her quality of life and I felt wasn’t the best path for her. Her cancer was small enough and in a good location to consider radiation as an option and for cure.” Instead, Dr. Calhoun encouraged Ginny to talk to her radiation oncologist about stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). SBRT delivers precise, intense doses of radiation to cancer cells and minimizes damage to healthy tissue. It can also typically be done in a handful of sessions as opposed to the M-F, six-week course of “classic” radiation. Advances in radiation therapy made this a compelling option for Ginny – one that would enable her to live her life as she wanted to. “I remember just walking to my car, sobbing after meeting with Dr. Calhoun,” Ginny shares. “This man had not only saved my life but my summer, my granddaughter’s wedding, my hobby – all the things that I loved that would have been impacted by surgery.” Ginny met with her radiation oncologist and began treatment. And, she is pleased to share – “It worked,” she says. She is living her life the way she wants: She’s completed the Flying Pig 5k and the Queen Bee with her friends and family cheering her on from the sidelines. Ginny is also back to serving as a volunteer at the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center, supporting individuals going through cancer treatment. “It’s just so important to take care of yourself and be your own advocate,” she says. “I recently told a group of people that there are three roles when it comes to cancer: Someone has to find the cure, someone has to worry and someone has to live their life.” It’s clear that Ginny is determined to live her life throughout her entire journey. Know Your Risk While Ginny’s lung cancer has no known cause, tobacco smoke remains the largest risk factor for developing lung cancer. The disease is a serious health concern across our state. Kentucky leads the nation in smoking and has more deaths from lung cancer than the next eight cancers combined, including breast, prostate and colon cancer. Lung cancer can be a serious, deadly disease. However, the implementation of lung cancer screening is changing the outcomes for many people that are found to have lung cancer by detecting it early, when it is very curable. “The most exciting advancement in lung cancer is screening,” Dr. Calhoun says. “We can target people who are at most risk for lung cancer and offer them a low-dose CT scan. It’s a safe, effective way to detect and diagnose lung cancer in its early stages, which ultimately leads to better treatment and outcomes. We are moving lung cancer screening to match the screening that occurs with mammography for breast cancer.” The low-dose CT scan can detect lung cancer early. According to the NCCN Guidelines for Patients Lung Cancer Screening Version 1.2017, individuals may be a good candidate for a low-dose CT scan if they are: Between 55 and 77 years old A current smoker or have quit within the past 15 years Have a 30-pack year history. Pack years are calculated by multiplying the number of years smoked. For example, if you smoked one pack a day for 30 years (1x30), that would equal a 30-pack year history. Smoking two packs a day for 15 years (2x15) would also equal a 30-pack year history. A Team Approach to Care Since coming to St. Elizabeth, Dr. Calhoun has been working to help advance the care and treatment available to individuals with lung cancer. At the heart of that is a multi-disciplinary approach where radiologists, pathologists, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons and medical and radiation oncologists work together to discuss the patient’s case, review the films, pathology and identify the best treatment plan for each individual, including clinical trials. “Detecting, diagnosing and treating lung cancer is evolutionary,” he says. “When we work across disciplines, we get different perspectives, experience and knowledge that are all relevant to the same problem. We’re positioned to do what’s best for the patient at any stage of their treatment.” Expert Care, Right Here Ginny is thankful for not only the care she received but that the guidance, support and expertise she needed was so close to home. Dr. Calhoun’s approach is one that resonated with her, and with many of his other patients. “It’s clear that Dr. Calhoun cares about his patients,” Ginny says. “He took the time to sit down and talk with me – to understand what I wanted from treatment, my history and interests. He used all that information, along with his own experience and knowledge, to make a recommendation that would be best for me.” “I try to see everyone as an individual,” Dr. Calhoun says. “I recognize that what they are going through is scary. But, I’m also an expert in what I do with a lot of experience, so I’m well positioned to help them figure out their lung cancer situation and get the treatment that’s best for them.” Learn more Take our online quiz at stelizabeth.com/lung to understand if you are a good candidate for a lung screening CT. Schedule an appointment with a primary care physician to discuss your lung cancer risk, quiz results and to learn more about the latest advances in treating lung cancer. Call St. Elizabeth Physicians at (800) 737-7900 or schedule a visit with a provider near you.