Steve Link, MD is a radiologist whose job includes screening for lung cancer. He is a healthy, active 58-year-old and was shocked last year with a lung cancer diagnosis. Steve had fractured several ribs while boogie boarding on vacation in Hawaii. As a radiologist, he knew there was no treatment for rib fractures, so he did not initially get an x-ray. However, when the family returned home, Steve’s wife encouraged him to get an x-ray to see how his ribs were healing.
While looking at the rib fractures, Steve noticed a vague abnormality in his lung. He thought it was likely related to a lung injury associated with the fractures and waited two weeks before repeating the x-ray.
As a non-smoker and an exceptionally active person, Steve never considered a cancer diagnosis, but repeat x-rays showed the abnormality once again. Steve was now worried. He scheduled a chest CT scan. The results showed a mass in the left upper lobe. A few days later, Steve had surgery that removed his left upper lobe and adjacent lymph nodes. One lymph node tested positive. His diagnosis was stage 3A non-small cell adenocarcinoma.
Steve said, “I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I had diagnosed many cancers in my radiology career, but this was personal and devastating.” Chemotherapy and radiation therapy followed over the next six months. It has now been over a year since Steve’s diagnosis, and his last CT scan showed ‘no evidence of disease’—the famous NED that cancer patients hope for!
“The follow up continues and there is anxiety with each scan,” Steve said. “This experience has reinforced for me the fragile nature of our existence. I had tried to live a healthy life and found out that this cancer doesn’t care about your lifestyle. The smoking stigma results in less funding for lung cancer research, but so many of us have lung cancer cases not associated with smoking. Low dose CT screening is covered only for heavy smokers, which doesn’t help people like me. We commonly screen for other cancers, but there is lim- ited endorsed screening for lung cancer, the deadliest of all cancers. It’s hard to understand,” he concluded.
ABOH is working hard to eradicate the smoking stigma and fund research to help treat and cure this disease. For this, I am very grateful and have become involved to help reach our goals. I believe this work will have a great impact for thousands of people.”
“I enthusiastically support ABOH’s effort to focus research dollars on treatments for lung cancer, and broader use of lung cancer screening.”
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