California State University, Long Beach library assistant Sharlene had a strong family history of smoking. Her family also had a strong history of lung cancer. A previous smoker herself, Sharlene hoped that diet and exercise would help prevent lung cancer.
“I had previous X-ray screenings with no signs of nodules, and yes, I feared each screening would be the news I’ve dreaded. It happened so often in my family that I just knew it would happen to me,” says Sharlene.
After her primary care physician retired, Sharlene switched her care to the MemorialCare Medical Group at Los Altos. She had a general check-up with Ryan Thompson, D.O. During her check-up, Dr. Thompson told Sharlene about the Lung Cancer Screening Program offered through the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center. Since she had no signs of lung cancer, but met the criteria of family history and previously smoking, he wrote her a referral.
The Lung Cancer Screening Program is an integral part of the Lung Nodule Center at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center. It provides patients with comprehensive, multi-disciplinary and expedited evaluation of lung nodules.
Lung cancer is often first discovered as a lung nodule found on a chest X-ray or CT scan. However, not all lung nodules are formed from cancers.
When Sharlene came in for her lung screening, she met with Robert Liou, M.D., pulmonologist, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center, and Deborah Oates, RN, ANP-BC, MSN, nurse navigator, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. They explained that she would be getting a CT scan to see if she had any evidence of lung nodules.
Long Beach Medical Center houses a low-dose spiral CT scanner. This is a special type of X-ray imaging that is more sensitive than routine X-rays and has a very low rate of radiation exposure for the patient. It has been proven to find cases of lung cancer at earlier stages, which improves survivor rates. Historically, lung cancer is a cancer that wasn’t diagnosed until it reached Stage 3 or 4.
Sharlene’s tests did come back positive. She had a lung nodule, but it was Stage 1A lung cancer.
“At first, I was very shocked about my diagnosis and I quit smoking immediately,” says Sharlene. “I was relieved that they found the cancer at an early stage and that it was treatable.”
Since Sharlene’s lung cancer was diagnosed at an early stage, the only type of treatment she needed was surgery. Once the nodule was removed from her lungs, she did not need chemotherapy or radiation.
After a quick recovery, Sharlene is back to assisting students at the library and spending time with her family.
“I am so thankful that Dr. Thompson referred me to the Lung Nodule Center at Long Beach Medical Center,” says Sharlene. “If I had waited any longer, the cancer could have been much worse. The entire team at the Lung Nodule Center helped saved my life and I am so grateful to all of them.”
- Family Medicine