Like many other baby boomers, Dennis Hays is a 60-year-old who has spent the majority of his adult life smoking. He started 40 years ago, when approximately 42 percent of adults in the United States were smokers but unaware the habit increased the risk for developing lung cancer among a number of other health related issues.
Mr. Hays, a Cincinnati resident, was recently encouraged to undergo a lung cancer screening by his primary care physician, Dr. Marshall McHenry. “Dr. McHenry said that due to my smoking history, I could benefit from a new screening program The Christ Hospital offers to detect lung cancer. Medicare just started covering it,” Hays recalls.
Dennis’s screening CT scan showed a spot in the upper portion of his left lung despite being completely without symptoms. A more specialized study called a PET CT confirmed a high suspicion for early stage cancer.
For many patients, the next step would have been a biopsy either using CT guidance or navigational bronchoscopy, a procedure that guides tools through the air passages of the lung. After thorough evaluation by multiple specialists, it was felt that a biopsy would be difficult because of the location of Mr. Hays’s lung mass.
Hays is grateful for the collaborative approach between experts at The Christ Hospital. A multidisciplinary team including radiology, oncology, pulmonology and thoracic surgeons worked together to review the complex situation and determine the best option.
“They decided to just do it all at one time, to go in and get the biopsy while in the operating room and if it was cancer, they’d go ahead and remove part of my lung. And that’s what happened.”
Five days before the surgery, Hays quit smoking for good. His procedure was scheduled for Valentine’s Day, but his wife didn’t mind. “She just wanted to get it over with too,” Hays says. “The day I first found out I had the spot on my lung was right before Christmas. Then I did the operation on Valentine’s Day. We joked that we hope there are no more holidays coming up!”
Hays turned out to have Stage 1 cancer in the left upper lobe of his lung. “They say it saved my life, and I believe them,” Hays says.
After four days of recovery in the hospital, Hays started getting back to normal. “As soon as I got out of the hospital, I was walking around and doing things I’d normally done,” he says. “Nothing real strenuous or anything, but I feel pretty good.”
Hays adds that having the affected part of his lung removed hasn’t affected his breathing. “The last time I went to the doctor, my oxygen level was 98,” he says. “I seem to be doing fine.”
Dennis will require follow up by his oncologist for the next number of years, but he wonders what would have happened had he not participated in The Christ Hospital Lung Cancer Screening Program. Hays is quick to recommend lung screening to others who might be at risk.
“I don’t know what would have happened if I never went down there for this screening,” Hays says. “But since I found it and I know what was in there, now I definitely feel like I have a new lease on life.”CT Lung Screening is a painless, non-invasive scan that only takes about 20 seconds and provides a very low dose of radiation exposure. Learn more about our lung screening or call the lung cancer navigator at 513-585-0690.