Time for a New Chapter - A Routine Scan Saves Martha's Life

Organization: Service: Story Topics:
Robotic Assisted Surgery

In the words of C.S. Lewis, Martha Braun can't imagine really enjoying a book and only reading it once. With dozens in her personal library, she carves time out of her busy schedule to read every chance she gets. Above reading, Martha’s greatest pleasure is being with her two grandchildren, who she cares for daily.

Over the course of her life, Martha has made choices to ensure she will be around to watch her grandkids grow older. One of those choices was to quit smoking, a choice she is proud of to this day. Otherwise healthy, Martha suffers from Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract and is regularly seen by her gastroenterologist, Benjamin Weinberg, M.D. During a routine scan, Dr. Weinberg noticed a spot on the bottom of her left lung, sparking enough concern that he referred her to Vidal Espeleta, M.D., pulmonologist.

Dr. Espeleta ordered a CAT scan for Martha which indicated she had mild to moderate COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and can make it difficult to breathe. Dr. Espeleta scheduled another CAT scan three months later to check for any changes.

“As a former smoker, I was scared. My sister passed away from lung cancer. My mind immediately went there,” says Martha.

At Martha’s follow up appointment, a new CAT scan revealed the spot, or nodule, had tripled in size.

“When something grows that much in size, it’s alarming. Deep down I felt it was cancer, even though at the time, I did not have a confirmed diagnosis,” recalls Martha. For further evaluation, Dr. Espeleta referred Martha to Samer A. Kanaan, M.D., FACS, thoracic surgeon specializing in robotic-assisted thoracic surgery at Saddleback Memorial. Dr. Kanaan determined that a surgical biopsy was required, and quickly scheduled Martha for surgery. Using a roboticassisted surgical procedure, Dr. Kanaan removed a small piece of Martha’s lung for a pathology test while Martha was still under anesthesia. In less than 10 minutes, the pathologist confirmed Martha had cancer.

Dr. Kanaan then continued with the operation, performing a robotic lobectomy and lymph node dissection to remove the cancerous tissue. During the three-hour surgery, Dr. Kanaan leveraged his great skill, as well as the precision of the robotic arms to remove 33 lymph nodes. Robotic-assisted surgery benefited Martha because it is minimally invasive,using just a small incision, thereby reducing the risk of complications and improving outcomes for a faster recovery time.

“We understand that all parts of the treatment process must align for the best possible outcomes. From your physician, to your care team, to the technology available, it all has to seamlessly work together. You have these wonderful resources right here, near your home. In Martha’s case, screening helped save her life. It was a good feeling to know that all of Martha’s lymph nodes were negative and that I was able to remove the cancer,” states Dr. Kanaan.

TURNING THE PAGE

Saddleback Memorial’s thoracic program is comprehensive, staffed with leading oncologists, surgeons, nurses and rehabilitation specialists. Whether preventative care such as a screening is needed, or treatment options including robotic-assisted surgery, Saddleback Memorial is equipped to provide care delivered at the highest standards.

“I was relieved to know that Dr. Kanaan had managed to remove all the cancer, and that I would not have to undergo chemotherapy. I felt like I had a second chance to be with my grandchildren,” recalls Martha. “And if I had to choose one word to describe my experience at Saddleback Memorial, it would be, ‘thorough.’”

For more information on cancer prevention and treatment programs at Saddleback Memorial, please visit memorialcare.org/sbcancer.

Vidal J. Espeleta, MD
Featured physician:

Vidal J. Espeleta, MD

Specialties:
  • Pulmonology, Internal Medicine, Sleep Disorders, Critical Care Medicine