This story is about my sister Rita Moretti Scruggs who succumbed to metastatic non-small cell lung cancer on May 6, 2019. Her illness was only 10 months long and she was stage 3 with a 5 cm tumor when diagnosed. It was inoperable and incurable and her lung cancer was directly caused by smoking for 40 years. She had stopped smoking four years earlier and no one knows when the cancer originated. Two points I want to emphasize: Rita chose to do an experimental study and her doctor did not notify her of her high risk and offer a pre-screening for lung cancer.
Our father and uncle both died of the same cancer. So family history and Rita's smoking history made her high risk. Her physician took two months to recommend she see a pulmonologist, as there are no mandates or protocols for a high-risk patient to be screened. This simple test might have saved her life. It had spread too much when she was diagnosed to be treated. Rita felt her only chance was the experimental study. She had a bad reaction to the experimental drugs and her case study nurse did not respond appropriately to the symptoms my sister presented. Her oncologist admitted there had been a "communication" problem. Rita never completely recovered from her cardiac arrest and revival and was not able to be treated with chemo. If doctors were instructed by insurance companies for pre-screening of high-risk patients, this might have never happened. And physicians need to be held accountable for mistakes. Her insurance company would not have paid for the pre-screening test and this is part of the overall problem. The cost of pre-screening for lung cancer would have been minimal compared to the treatment of lung cancer.