Lung screenings save lives
Chicago resident Ursula Furrer had a chronic cough for years, and despite being prescribed antibiotics for her ailment, she was still concerned about the cause of the cough.
More people in the U.S. die from lung cancer each year than from breast, prostate and colon cancer combined, according to the American Cancer Society. Yet, screening for lung cancer prior to a patient experiencing symptoms is relatively uncommon, says Dr. Axel Joob, a thoracic surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.
“The biggest criticism of lung screening is that you could remove a part of the lung for a biopsy and the tumor could turn out to be benign, or not cancerous,” says Dr. Joob. “Like any surgery, this procedure puts the patient at risk for complications. On the other hand, if you find lung cancer early, before it has spread to other parts of the body, the survival rate is significantly higher.”
Dr. Joob and his team at Illinois Masonic run a lung screening program that aims to benefit people like Furrer by detecting lung cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages. The program is based on a national lung cancer screening trial, the results of which support the widespread use of low-dose CT scan for early detection of lung cancer.
“The screening program allows us to detect about 50 percent of lung cancer cases at any early enough stage that treatment with intent to cure the patient is an option,” say Dr. Joob.
Within just a few days of her diagnosis, Furrer had surgery with Dr. Joob. He removed about 33 percent of her left lung. In about a month, she was back to her normal self — without that chronic cough.
Follow-up chest X-rays have also shown no signs of the cancer returning.
“I was so happy my cancer was detected when it was,” Furrer says. “Dr. Joob says I’m recuperating well. I swim for an hour every day. I’m feeling great.”
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