Lung Cancer Screening - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Healthy Living Online

Published on April 04, 2016

Bill Watkins, lung cancer patient

Lung Cancer Screening Proves Valuable for Local Whittier Couple

Couple who had lung cancer screeningThanks to PIH Health’s Lung Cancer Screening program, current and former smokers throughout the community are getting the tests they need to detect lung cancer early, when it’s most treatable. Two great examples are Bill and Sue Watkins, longtime Whittier residents who were lifelong smokers. Bill, 79, started smoking in his 20s, and Sue, 67, started at age 13.

Even though they quit smoking 10 years ago, they had decades of potential damage. They decided to look into the Lung Cancer Screening Program. They scheduled their screenings for February 2015.

Medicare covered the cost of the procedure for Sue, but Bill was over the covered age, so he paid cash for his screening instead. The timing of the test was perfect. “The procedure itself—a computerized tomography (CT) scan—is very quick and easy. There is no preparation involved and it only takes a few minutes,” said Sue.

The Watkins are very glad they made the time to get screened. “Turns out, I had just a couple small spots—nothing to worry about,” said Sue, “But unfortunately, my husband had four large spots on his lungs even though he had no outward symptoms. He had three different cancer types—and one was a type the doctors had never seen before. PIH Health quickly scheduled a surgery to remove the lower part of his lung.” Eduardo Tovar MD, a PIH Health cardiothoracic surgeon, performed a partial resection to surgically remove the cancerous portion of Bill’s lung. The procedure involves a technique that decreases pain and allows for a much faster recovery time. This quick work may have saved Bill’s life.

When the biopsy came back, the Watkins learned that the unidentified cancer was an aggressive type that often can rapidly spread to other organs such as the bones and/or the brain. By the time anyone notices symptoms, the cancer is often inoperable. “What a miracle our timing was,” said Sue. “Our oncologist, Lisa Wang MD, told us that if our screening had been five months earlier, the cancer would have been too small to be seen, and had we found it five months later, it would have been so advanced, they wouldn’t have been able to do surgery.”

“Thanks to the precise timing of our screening—and the wonderful care of the entire team at PIH Health—my husband is living a full life today.” In October 2015, the PIH Health Lung Cancer Screening Program received the Association of Community Cancer Center’s (ACCC) Innovator Award for outstanding contributions to enhancing quality cancer care in the community.

For more information on PIH Health’s Lung Cancer Screening Program, please call 562.967.2892.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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