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'I Didn't Want to Die': Patient Shares Lung Cancer Screening Success

Cancer Care
Author name: Lee Health


lung cancer screening

It’s a simple and stark fact, but one that’s not well known: Lung cancer screening saves lives.

You don’t have to convince Doug Evans. In June, a lung cancer screening led to an eventual diagnosis of lung cancer in the 54-year-old Fort Myers resident. Thankfully, the small cell carcinoma in Doug’s left lung was caught sooner rather than later, proving that early detection can be lifesaving.

Nationally, 25.8 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer at an early stage have a five-year survival rate of 61 percent, according to the American Lung Association. In late-stage cases (44 percent)—when the disease is less curable—the survival rate falls to 7 percent.

Doug credits his primary doctor Dr. Albert Van Zyl, a board-certified family physician with Lee Physician Group, for suggesting the screening.

“If it wasn’t for Dr. Van Zyl, I would have been carrying on as usual,” Doug says. “It could have been too late for me if it wasn’t for the screening. After my diagnosis, I quit smoking cold turkey.”

Doug smoked a pack-and-a-half of cigarettes for more than 35 years, putting him at high risk for lung cancer. (A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a disease such as lung cancer. Read here to know more about other risk factors for lung cancer.)

Nurse practitioner Bobbi Marino, who facilitates the Lung Cancer Screening Program at Lee Health Regional Cancer Center in Fort Myers says screening for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans among people at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20 percent.

“Detecting tumors at early stages when they are more likely to be curable means better treatment and more opportunities for patients to take advantage of the most comprehensive options,” Bobbi says.

She adds that lung cancer treatment includes more than just chemotherapy.

“Depending on stage and type of lung cancer, other treatment options may include targeted therapies and immunotherapies that focus on the cancer cells, unlike chemotherapy that affects the entire body to get to the cancer cells,” she says. “If caught at an early stage, surgery could be an optional treatment.”

‘I didn’t want to die’

In his childhood family, Doug has endured much heartbreak from the ravages of cancer. His twin sister died of ovarian cancer only weeks before his cancer diagnosis. Lung cancer claimed their father when the siblings were 10. At 17, the siblings lost their mother to ovarian cancer.

Doug, who works for a construction builder in Cape Coral, approached his radiation treatments with hard-hat determination and matter-of-fact dedication to getting the job done.

“At first, I was scared,” he recalls about his diagnosis. “I didn’t want to die, so I knew I had to go through the treatment. For me, there was no getting around it. So, I thought I’ll just do it, and we'll move on.”

But moving on, for Doug, also means being able to continue caring for his oldest daughter, who has special needs and shares his home. It also means celebrating her 22nd birthday with her in February. Another daughter, 17, lives with their mother.

Doug underwent radiation treatments five days a week for seven weeks. He also completed four cycles of chemotherapy over 12 weeks at Lee Physician Group Oncology.

He also tolerated chemotherapy well. He completed his last radiation session at GenesisCare Center for Radiation Oncology in early October.

Lung Cancer Screening, Diagnosis, Treatment and Management - Close to Home

Lung cancer causes an estimated 160,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, making it the most common cause of cancer death in this country as well as around the world. Lung cancer mainly occurs in people aged 65 or older and kills more people yearly than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer is also one of the most preventable malignancies because it’s usually caused by smoking. But while smoking remains the primary cause, secondhand smoke, a poor diet, and lack of exercise may also contribute to the disease.

Doug’s cancer care team included:

Dr. Venkata Parsa, a board-certified hematologist/oncologist, Lee Physician Group.

Dr. Keith Miller, radiation oncologist, GenesisCare.

Dr. Albert Van Zyl, a board-certified physician in family medicine, Lee Physician Group.

Bobbi Marino, APRN, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with Lee Health Regional Cancer Center.

The Lee Health Regional Cancer Center helps cancer patients with comprehensive care and treatment plan, from its expert team of medical oncologists, specialists, and nurse navigators.

Resources are accessible and conveniently located for residents in Cape Coral, Naples, Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, and Bonita Springs. The Center also offers in-person or telemedicine healthcare services.

Call 239-343-LUNG (5864) for a consultation, a screening, or to make an appointment.

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