Lung Cancer Patient Stories

 

Nancy Smith

In January 2010, a routine X-ray that revealed possible lung cancer led Nancy Smith to see surgeon Donald Low, MD, FACS. Nancy then underwent a limited thoracotomy, an open lung procedure that would give Dr. Low the best access to the area of suspected cancer without damage from spreading or cutting the ribs.

Choosing an open procedure meant Dr. Low could thoroughly examine the tumor area. Three separate areas of cancer were identified within a single lobe of Nancy’s lung. The decision was made that a lobectomy, with the removal of thoracic lymph glands, would be the best cancer surgery for Nancy. Removing just one of the three lobes in Nancy’s lung preserved much of her lung function while eliminating all detectable disease.

Hospital stays following procedures like Nancy’s average up to nine days nationally, but she was ready to go home on day four and quickly resumed her busy life. But nearly two years after Nancy’s lung surgery, her regular CT scans showed a new nodule in her left lung, making Nancy a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure called video-assisted thoracic surgery, or VATS. VATS allows the surgeon to operate on the lungs through small incisions, guided by a slender camera that produces images from inside the body on a video monitor.

Nancy’s VATS procedure was a success, removing a wedge of lung tissue around the nodule diagnosed as stage I adenocarcinoma, a totally separate cancer from her first diagnosis. The early stage meant the cancer was localized, a good reason to preserve Nancy’s lung function by performing a wedge resection and not a second lobectomy. After surgery, Nancy came to a consensus with her care team that regular monitoring with CT scans was a plan they could all get behind.

“I was so well taken care of I perked right back up after surgery,” says Nancy, who at age 77 continues to surpass expected outcomes. “What I know is he’s a really caring doctor who will sit and talk with you,” says Nancy about Dr. Low. “I trust him with my life and my daughters feel the same way. He’s top of the line.”