Lung screenings save lives

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.

Late last year, her new primary care physician, Dr. Paola Alvarez with Advocate Medical Group in Chicago, ordered several tests, including a chest X-ray, which showed a small tumor in her left lung.

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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5 Comments

  1. It’s awfull that this person’s prior primary care doctor (hopefully not from Advocate) didn’t order the testing much earlier. After all, who was prescribing the antibiotics????

  2. Ronald Hirsch, MD August 26, 2015 at 5:09 pm · Reply

    Ms. Furrer was not screened for lung cancer. She had a symptom and had a diagnostic test. Screening is when asymptomatic patients have tests to detect cancer that has not manifested yet with symptoms.

    • Dr. Hirsch, thank you for your comment. You are correct that Ms. Furrer had a diagnostic test. However, because she benefited from early detection of lung cancer, we wanted to share her story as an example of how screening and early detection can help others, including those who do not have symptoms.

    • Just to clarify, Mrs Furrer was having some ungoing cough. I ordered the Chest X-ray and CT for screening purposes because she was a long time smoker also.

  3. I, too, am a lung cancer survivor–because I participated in a study that charged me $10 for that low dose CT scan. I strongly encourage all current and former smokers who fit the parameters to search for a program. I had no symptoms, but the CT showed 2 small tumors. Thanks to Dr. Joob, I’m doing well. Like Ms. Furrer, I swim every day!

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.

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