Another Accidental Lung Cancer Diagnosis
During the fall of 2021, Dean Lieser was a healthy 39-year-old father of twins when he developed unusual flu-like symptoms and a stomachache that would not go away. He couldn’t sleep and was miserable, so he went in to see his doctor to ask for help. The doctor called up a CT scan of his stomach. The test caught the lower right side of his lung where they saw something suspicious. They referred him to a pulmonologist but told him they weren’t overly worried because he was a nonsmoker with no risk factors for lung cancer.
Since Dean wasn’t sure his insurance would cover the next visit and he had a vacation planned, he waited a few months before following up. By mid-March, he was scheduled for a CT scan and biopsy but was further delayed after he got Covid. In April of 2022, following his tests, he was diagnosed with Stage 3A Adenocarcinoma, the most common form of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. The average five-year survival rate for 3A adenocarcinoma is 35%, versus stage 3B at 26%, and just 8% at stage 4. Knowing that lung cancer is aggressive, he was thankful he didn’t wait any longer!
Dean shared that the first months following his diagnosis were very difficult for him and his wife. With two young children, a lobectomy and recovery, ongoing medical appointments and therapy, and the fear and uncertainty that accompany a cancer diagnosis, he was emotionally drained. Dean shared, “Lung Cancer never leaves your mind, and it is easy to become overwhelmed.”
Dean felt like he had won the lottery when his biomarker testing revealed a mutation in the DNA of his tumor – ALK-positive. ALK-positive lung cancer represents about 4% of lung cancer and generally appears in adenocarcinoma non-small cell lung cancer. Patients who are ALK-positive tend to be younger than the average lung cancer patient. They also tend not to have a smoking history. The good news is – we have some amazing new therapies for ALK positive lung cancer and today, Dean is NED – no evidence of disease.
When we asked Dean what he wishes others knew about lung cancer, he said this, “Lung cancer is anyone’s cancer and if you have any unexplained symptoms, don’t be nonchalant about seeking medical help. Just because you don’t smoke or feel you are healthy overall; lung cancer is still a risk for all of us.”
Dean Lieser with his family
“Lung cancer is anyone’s cancer and if you have any unexplained symptoms, don’t be nonchalant about seeking medical help. Just because you don’t smoke or feel you are healthy overall; lung cancer is still a risk for all of us.” – Dean