Menu Thoracic & Foregut Surgery Meet Your Thoracic Doctors Lung Conditions Lung Cancer Lung Cancer Screenings Mesothelioma Lung Cancer in Kentucky 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 A Sign that Saved a Life Pam Perin was waiting in the exam room to see her doctor, Jeff Blau, MD, primary care physician at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Ft. Mitchell, when she noticed a sign for a lung cancer screening. “I’ve smoked for 40 years,” she says. “Dr. Blau is always telling me to stop smoking. When I saw that poster on the back of the door, I just thought to myself, ‘Well, that might be for me.’” The sign was for a low-dose CT scan that can detect lung cancer in its early stages. The test uses lower amounts of radiation than a typical chest CT and does not need intravenous (IV) contrast dye. Research has shown that it can detect lung cancer in its early stages, better than a chest X-ray. “The low-dose CT scan is like a mammogram for the lungs,” explains Dr. Blau. “It can help catch lung cancer before patients start to have signs or symptoms of cancer. Early detection is key to effectively treating lung cancer.” A Positive Outcome Pam had the screening CT on a Monday. On Tuesday, the doctor’s office called. There was a spot on her scan, and she would need to be evaluated. Within a few days, she was sitting in front of Royce Calhoun, MD, medical director for thoracic surgery at St. Elizabeth. “He gave me three options: Biopsy it, take it out or get another CT scan in three months to see if it is growing. Well, I didn’t want to sit and wait for three months, so I told him to take it out.” Pam had video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) the next week. Dr. Calhoun performed a standard lung cancer operation by removing her right lower lobe and 31 lymph nodes. The spot was found to be lung cancer and all the lymph nodes were negative for cancer. This news gave Pam an excellent life expectancy free of lung cancer without need for chemo or radiation. VATS is a minimally invasive approach to lung surgery available to select patients with early-stage lung cancer. During VATS, Dr. Calhoun uses video-endoscopic equipment that allowed him to view Pam’s lungs and remove the cancer. It requires smaller incisions and offers a faster recovery with less pain than traditional, open surgery which requires a larger incision and cutting more muscle and spreading ribs. Pam was able to go home three days after surgery, doing well. “I feel great,” she says. “God is good and so are my doctors. I just feel very blessed.” “We are living in an exciting era for lung cancer and early detection and treatment,” says Dr. Calhoun. “With the advent of CT screening for lung cancer, we are poised to save so many more lives compared to the previous paradigm of not detecting lung cancer until symptoms and a very high death rate.” It’s clear Pam feels fortunate for being on the receiving end of the advances in detecting and treating lung cancer. “Some people just don’t want to know if they have lung cancer,” she said. “I decided I want to know. And it worked out well for me. I’m so glad I get to live and continue doing what I love, rescuing dogs.” And as for smoking – “I haven’t smoked a single cigarette since November 28, 2017 when Dr. Blau’s office called to tell me that there was a spot that needed to be taken out of my lung,” she proudly says. Know Your Lung Cancer Risk Medical tests and screenings can, understandably, create a lot of worry and anxiety. However, when it comes to your health, Pam and Dr. Blau agree – knowing is always better. “Not knowing if you are sick or getting sick isn’t going to change the ultimate outcome,” says Dr. Blau. “Knowing, however, can change that outcome.” Lung cancer is a serious health concern across Kentucky. Our state leads the nation in smoking. There are also more deaths from lung cancer than the next eight cancers combined. The key to effective lung cancer treatment is early detection. When lung cancer is diagnosed and treated early (Stage I), the five-year survival rate can be over 80%. This contrasts with the poor overall survival rate of all lung cancers combined with a five-year survival rate of 15%. This is because the majority of lung cancers are not caught by screening but rather when people become sick with coughing up blood, weight loss, etc. and at that point, the cancer is often too advanced to hope for any cure. The low-dose CT scan can detect lung cancer early. According to the NCCN Guidelines for Patients Lung Cancer Screening Version 1.2017, you may be a good candidate for a low-dose CT scan if you 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. Don’t wait another day. 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 results. Call St. Elizabeth Physicians at (800) 737-7900 or schedule a visit with a provider near you.