Joe Sanders is on the beach, ready to experience paddleboarding for the first time. His mind wanders off, appreciating this very moment. He firmly believes that it’s his proactive approach to cancer prevention that allows him to face each day with confidence, and it was all because of an article that he came across a few years ago.

“Both my dad and brother died from lung cancer before the age of 65. When I read an article on how the low-dose CT scanner helps detect cancer early, I knew I had to find that machine,” says Joe.


With cancer of any kind, knowing the risk factors helps to understand the likelihood of developing the disease. Some risk factors, such as age and gender, cannot be modified. Yet others, like maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and exercising are controllable.

About 5 to 10% of common cancers, such as breast and colon cancer, have some degree of inherited risk, meaning a person’s risk may increase if they have a first or second-degree relative who was diagnosed.

Worried about his family history of lung cancer, Joe looked for answers. Originally from Muskogee, Oklahoma, Joe started smoking at 17 years old, and smoked day and night for 35 years.

“Smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. Patients typically don’t show any signs or symptoms until the disease has progressed to the later stages, possibly limiting treatment options,” says Richard Wasley, M.D., medical director of imaging at Saddleback Medical Center. “For patients like Joe, it’s critical that they’re screened annually. That’s the best way for us to discover the smallest changes so we can take action right away.”


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women. With state-of-the-art imaging technology, caring cancer specialists are committed to early diagnosis to help keep patients cancer-free and enjoying their lives.

For Joe, the Early Lung Cancer Screening Program at Saddleback Medical Center inspired hope, empowering him to stay ahead of cancer. At the cornerstone of screening is the low-dose computed tomography (CT) scanner, in which detailed, 3D images of patients’ lungs are taken with limited radiation exposure.

“Studies have shown that annual low-dose CT scans can bring lung cancer mortality rates down by 20% thanks to early detection,” says cancer nurse navigator, Ruth Niebuhr, R.N. “Our Early Lung Cancer Screening Program is designed to do exactly that – save lives.”

Dr. Wasley adds, “The scan takes just five seconds, and patients don’t even have to remove their shirts. Results are available the same day so patients don’t have to wait and wonder.”


Experienced and dedicated cancer experts work together, sharing their knowledge, coordinating treatment and providing patients with personalized cancer care. With a range of surgical options, including robotic-assisted surgery, along with supportive care such as rehabilitation services, nutrition counseling, and spiritual counseling, the MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Saddleback Medical Center provides every aspect of exceptional cancer care to make the journey as comfortable and convenient as possible for patients and their families.

If cancer is detected, Saddleback Medical Center’s leading cancer program utilizes the latest technologies. Among these advanced treatments is the TrueBeam™, radiation therapy that destroys cancerous tissue and preserves normal, healthy tissue.

“The TrueBeam has improved how we treat many cancers, including breast, prostate, lung and other cancers,” says radiation oncologist, Steven Damore, M.D. “In the case of early stage lung cancer, high precision means fewer radiation treatments with fewer side effects for patients. Many patients need five or fewer treatments, compared to dozens it used to take, and those few sessions are more effective than all the previous ones combined.”


Joe shares his experience with family and friends to increase cancer awareness. He continues his screenings at Saddleback Medical Center, and has a new outlook on life. He swore off cigarettes, hits the gym every morning, and swapped lumberjack breakfasts for protein bars. With 50 lbs. less weight to carry around, his sleep apnea is a thing of the past. He’s even come out of retirement and started his own business which now has 40 employees.

“I’m a new man with new habits,” says Joe. “The screenings give me peace of mind. Not only am I relieved when the results come back clean, but I’m more confident that if anything does develop, they’ll find it early. Now that’s a good feeling.”

To schedule an appointment for early lung cancer screening, please visit our section on Lung and Respiratory Care.