When Zoe Schmidt got a postcard in January 2021 from The Christ Hospital encouraging long-time smokers to get a quick and easy lung cancer screening, she decided to call right away. At age 57, Zoe had been smoking a pack a day for 30 years. She thought, "Sure, why not?"
The following week, Zoe had an LDCT – or low-dose CT – scan of her lungs. "I never thought in a million years it could happen to me, but they found a tumor. My husband and I were shocked," she says.
Julian Guitron, MD, a thoracic surgical specialist at The Christ Hospital, suspected Zoe had stage one lung cancer and prepared her for a robotic procedure, an advanced form of minimally invasive surgery.
Swift diagnosis to swift treatment
"This all happened pretty fast," Zoe says. "I had the scan in January, and by the end of February, Dr. Guitron performed the surgery, got the tumor out—it was about an inch around— and confirmed a diagnosis of stage one cancer."
Based on the cancer diagnosis, Dr. Guitron proceeded with removing the lower half of Zoe's left lung along with several lymph nodes. Her lymph nodes showed no cancer, so Zoe didn't need to have chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
After a few days in the hospital, Zoe was back home and walking the dog with her husband. "They did such a great job managing my pain that I didn't need any pain medication," she explains. "I can have a normal life. I don't plan on running a marathon, but I can go back to my regular exercise and yard work. I'm thrilled. God was really watching over me."
Just one month after her surgery, Zoe went on a family vacation to Florida. She gets emotional when she thinks about how one simple postcard saved her life. "It's wonderful how they reach out to people like that. I have a good friend in her 70s who is a long-time heavy smoker, and I am all over her to go and get this test."
Importance of lung cancer screening for those at high risk
Zoe is a perfect example of how lung cancer screening should work, explains Dr. Guitron. "She is in her mid-fifties and has 30 'pack years' of smoking."
Pack years is the number of smoking years times the number of packs smoked per day. For example, smoking two packs a day for 15 years equals 30 pack years.
"With this screening program, we can now identify lung cancer earlier, offer treatments promptly, and provide the best possible care and outcome," says Dr. Guitron. "The earlier the stage of the cancer, the better the outcome and long-term survival."
How lung cancer screening works
The lung cancer screening is a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT, and only takes 20 seconds to complete. This test has a very low dose of X-ray radiation, and there are no needle sticks or injections involved. You won't be confined to an enclosed, noisy machine like an MRI, and you'll simply lie flat on a table.
If the screening does find a spot or nodule on your lung, this doesn't necessarily mean you have cancer. In some cases, your doctor may recommend another scan in 3-6 months or a biopsy of the suspicious spot. Our advanced robotic bronchoscopy technology has the ability to reach even the tiniest lung nodules without an incision or hospital stay. If lung cancer is diagnosed, our lung cancer team provides prompt, effective treatment that may involve surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
If you are a current or former smoker between the ages of 55-77, contact us for information about scheduling a low-dose CT scan. You can request a lung screening appointment or call 513-585-0690 to speak with our nurse navigator.