In March 2016, Ann Robinson was facing Stage 3 lung cancer. Today the Elizabethtown woman is cancer-free, living an active life, and encouraging other current and former smokers to consider a screening test that saved her life.
It Started with a Cough
Ann was just starting to feel better after fighting a bad chest cold, when she developed a cough that would not go away. During a follow-up appointment with her doctor, she asked about low-dose CT lung cancer screening.
Ann, age 78, had been a smoker since she was a teenager and had recently seen advertisements about low-dose lung CT.
“I used to smoke one pack a day,” she said, “but cut back over to a half back over the past 10 years.”
Why Low-Dose CT?
Smokers have a higher risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers, even years after they have stopped smoking.
CT screening is the only recommended tool for detecting lung cancer in its earliest stage — before symptoms are apparent. As with most cancers, early detection offers the best opportunity for a cure.
Low-dose CT screening is recommended for adults between the ages of 55 and 77 who:
- Have a "30-pack-year" history of smoking. A pack year is the number of packs of cigarettes smoked daily, multiplied by the number of years smoking. For example, one pack a day for 30 years, or 2 packs a day for 15
- Meet the above criteria and currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years
- Have no symptoms or history of lung cancer
Ann's Story, Continued
Based on Ann’s smoking history, her doctor scheduled her for a low-dose CT screening. He called her later that day to tell her she had lung cancer.
“I was pretty shocked because I felt fine,” recalled Ann.
A nurse navigator at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute started guiding Ann through her cancer journey. The first step was providing a referral to a pulmonologist who diagnosed Ann with Stage 3 lung cancer. The cancer had moved to her lymph nodes.
Treatment and Recovery
Ann began treatment, which included both chemotherapy and radiation. She was surprised at how good she felt throughout treatment, driving herself to her appointments and continuing her normal routine.
“I’ve had three CT scans since I finished treatment and there is no sign of cancer,” she said.
Ann continues to feel good and lead an active life, following up with her doctor every six months.
She can’t say enough good things about everyone with whom she interacted at the Cancer Institute. From the team at the Image Recovery Center, to the housekeeping crew, to the doctors and nurses: “I love them all.”
A Word to Smokers
“People really need to pay attention to this if they’ve been a smoker,” emphasizes Ann.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States—more than breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined. Typically, symptoms don't appear until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage.
To determine if you are an appropriate candidate for low-dose CT lung screenings, you can take an assessment at Checkyourlungs.org/assessment.