One woman’s dog influenced her to get a screening

One woman’s dog influenced her to get a screening

When Cathy returned home from vacation in Arizona in 2018, her dog Cooper began sniffing her face, something he’d never done before.

Alarmed at his behavior and worried that she may have skin cancer, Cathy sought an appointment with a dermatologist to get screened. Her test results came back negative, and she carried on normally, not forgetting Cooper’s strange behavior.

Cathy was a smoker for more than 45 years and had a family history of cancer. Her sister was also a smoker of 40 years and decided to go for a screening in February 2019. Influenced by her sister’s actions, Cooper’s continued behavior and realizing that her breathing had worsened, Cathy decided it was time to stop delaying her lung cancer screening. In March 2019, her CAT scan showed a shadow on her left lung, and her doctor recommended a biopsy to determine if it was cancer.

“The biopsy confirmed I had lung cancer and Dr. Vercillo performed a lobectomy, where they took the top lobe of my left lung, with minimal scars and incisions,” said Cathy. “Second week post-surgery, I went back to babysitting and made a promise to never smoke again.”

“Early detection of lung cancer can save lives and Cathy is a prime example,” says Dr. Michael Vercillo, thoracic surgeon at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. “Lung cancer typically doesn’t cause symptoms until the cancer has spread, which makes it difficult to treat. The low-dose CT scan is the only screening tool that reduces the risk of dying from lung cancer and is recommended for people at high risk.”

Ask your doctor if a lung cancer screening is right for you. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual screenings “in adults aged 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Screening should be discontinued once a person has not smoked for 15 years.”

“Using minimally invasive surgery, which includes robotic surgery and video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), patients recover faster, have fewer complications, shortened hospital stays and smaller scars,” says Dr. Vercillo. “Technology has allowed us to provide better outcomes for patients diagnosed with lung cancer and it’s extremely important to get screened every year if you are at risk and eligible.”

To better understand your risk, take our free online lung health quiz.


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  1. Nice heartwarming story 😀 I’m glad to read about Cathy’s proactive check for cancer. Cooper deserves a medal!

  2. I hope Cooper got some kudo’s! Maybe he should be trained as a screening service dog.

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About the Author

Neda Veselinovic
Neda Veselinovic

Neda Veselinovic, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. She has more than five years of public relations experience and most recently worked with clients in the travel and hospitality industries. She prefers to spend her time with a cup of coffee and a good read and always welcomes book recommendations.