Patient Story: Ahead of the Game

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Early Lung Cancer Screening Can Save Lives

James Bartlett may be 73 years old, but spending time with his high school buddies keeps him feeling young at heart. When they get together, James says they reminisce with old stories and lots of laughs – but he always shares one important reminder with them: start a conversation with your doctor about having a lung cancer screening.

“I care about my friends, and I want them around a long time, so I always stress the importance of getting this screening done,” James says. “It’s a simple screening, and the peace of mind in knowing that you’re safe is priceless.”

James Bartlett, Veteran
James Bartlett, Army veteran

James lives in Barrow County, an area that has the highest percentage of lung cancer occurrence in the state of Georgia – and has had the screening himself.

In 2018, following a lifetime of cigarette smoking, James’s doctors recommended he get an annual lung cancer screening, which he underwent at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC). And while the first screening proved clear, the second examination revealed a tiny growth that turned out to be cancerous.

Thanks to continued screening and early detection, a dedicated panel of NGMC doctors successfully cured James’ stage 1 adeno-carcinoma-squamous (mixed type) nodule, ensuring plenty more high school reunions and get-togethers for the life-loving Army veteran.

“When you first hear the words ‘you have cancer,’ it occupies your mind. But when the doctor stressed how small it was due to early detection, I felt some relief,” James says. He underwent surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy on his journey into remission. “At first, I dreaded the surgery and chemo. But it had to be done, and now that it’s done, I feel good.”

Part of what made James’ overall experience so positive was having the lung cancer screening procedure done early. Successful health outcomes like James’s will continue to be more and more common, thanks to NGMC providing this screening to a wide range of patients.

Screening Recommendations

“There’s a common misconception that it’s difficult to qualify for a lung cancer screening due to insurance or age restrictions, but this isn’t the case,” says Sandi Clark, BSN, RN, who works as one of NGMC’s oncology nurse navigators. “We want to offer these screenings to as many people as possible because we’re seeing curable diagnoses in stages 1 and 2, where we used to only see stages 3 and 4. At that point, you’re talking about the difference between curative care and palliative care.”

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends an annual lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) for adults 55 to 80 years old, who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. The screening takes just minutes to complete and is painless and non-invasive, Sandi adds.

“This type of screening for lung cancer is a dream come true,” says Rami Arfoosh, MD, a physician with Pulmonary and Sleep Specialists of Northeast Georgia. “Lung cancer is still the most deadly cancer. There are 234,000 new cases per year in the US – and over 154,000 associated deaths. Prevention is the highest priority and the best method of prevention is smoking cessation. But the second priority is early detection; it makes the biggest difference in the trajectory of the disease.”

Early Detection Means Early Treatment

“Your survival rate is up to 35% higher if lung cancer is discovered in stage 1,” adds Dr. Arfoosh, who moderates NGMC’s multidisciplinary Chest Board – a panel of specialists that reviews and examines each new diagnosis to help streamline and expedite the course of treatment. “We currently have a 70-90% chance of finding the cancer in stage 1 with this screening.”

“I’m thankful for the commitment shown by each member of the Chest Board, as well as the nurses and staff that maintain key patient data and keep us all connected,” Dr. Arfoosh says. “They work tirelessly for the benefit of patients like James.

As for James, he’s more than happy to serve as living proof of the importance of screening. He jokes that he plays the role of a broken record, always reminding anyone he knows who fits the criteria (between the ages of 55 and 80 who has smoked) that they should get a lung cancer screening.

“It could save their life. It did mine,” he says.

Get More Information

For more information about lung cancer screening options, visit www.nghs.com/lung-screening