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Barbara A., MA

My mother never smoked but was diagnosed with lung cancer at 76, and died of the disease at age 80. They didn't have CT scans in those days so by the time she was diagnosed, it was too late - although she did live longer than expected.

I was 59 and had never smoked. I also exercised and had always lead a healthy lifestyle. Seeing my Physician's Assistant for a cold, she suggested I get a baseline x-ray. A small nodule appeared so she suggested a CT Scan. Even with the scan, the nodule didn't look cancerous but I saw a pulmonary specialist anyway, who suggested I get another scan in six months. Nothing changed for another 18 months. Then I caught pneumonia and recovered. On the follow-up x-ray it showed the node was more solid than before, and it was confirmed by another CT Scan that it was cancerous.

Following that was a Pet Scan, and, fortunately, the cancer had not spread. I had surgery in March, 2014 for its removal. When biopsied, and because I was in good shape, it was determined that the best course of treatment was a lobectomy.

Since then I get regular scans. When first diagnosed, I asked the surgeon how long I would have gone without symptoms if the cancer hadn't been discovered at the stage (1A) it was. He said it could have been SEVEN YEARS! Therein lies the nature of certain lung cancers - you can go symptom free for long periods of time until it spreads.

I can't emphasize how important getting scans are. If I was not a smoker and it happened to me - I feel it should ABSOLUTELY be routine for smokers or anyone with a family history of the disease...

I say a prayer each time I get my next scan, for me and for anyone going through this terrible ordeal.

First Published: March 12, 2018

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