Wichita man's lung cancer diagnosed, treated in one month

Doctors at the Ascension Via Christi Lung Nodule Clinic in Wichita, KS, helped find and treat lung cancer quickly because of a lung cancer screening.

Kevin Smith is breathing easier these days after receiving a lung cancer diagnosis, treatment and a cure all within a month.

The 59-year-old's cancer journey started with a referral by his primary care doctor, Denise Huskey, MD, to Ascension Via Christi's Low-Dose CT Lung Screening program. This screening takes images of your lungs, and it takes just a few minutes, once started. 

Dr. Huskey determined that he met the age and smoking history criteria for the program. Men and women who have smoked cigarettes within the last 15 years should talk with their doctor about their lung health and a screening for lung cancer.

"From there, everything just fell into place right on cue," said Kevin, a former smoker for more than 30 years.

Kevin's CT scan revealed a concerning mass on the lower lobe of his right lung. His oncology nurse navigator Lori Hurst, RN, referred him to Ascension Via Christi's recently established Lung Nodule Clinic.

Although Kevin’s late wife died of an undiscovered cancer after it had spread throughout her body, he wasn't too anxious. 

"I didn't have time to think or worry much about anything," he said.

Lung cancer treatment close to home

On Dec. 29, 2022, Kevin consulted with three members of the Lung Nodule Clinic's multidisciplinary team: pulmonologist Abdel-Ghanie Abu-Samra, MD; interventional pulmonologist Thamer Sartawi, MD; and cardiothoracic surgeon Brett Grizzell, MD. The team of doctors recommended further tests including getting blood drawn with Nodify, a newly available blood test, to determine the likelihood of the nodule being cancerous.

Nearly two weeks later, the results came back: Kevin had a low- to moderate-risk of the nodule being cancerous. Then, eight days later, he had a PET scan to look for any signs of cancer activity elsewhere in his body. Fortunately, there were none.

The next step would be for Kevin to have a lung biopsy performed using St. Francis' recently acquired ION system. Dr. Abu-Samra used it to perform a minimally invasive procedure to get a tissue sample and place a marker for surgery. Kevin was determined to have Stage 1 invasive adenocarcinoma, meaning that once removed, his cancer would be gone.

On Jan. 26, 2023, Dr. Grizzell removed the cancerous nodule with the assistance of St. Francis' da Vinci robot and Kevin returned home four days later. The surgery is a video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) using smaller, more precise incisions to remove lung nodules and tumors.

Kevin met with oncologist Bassem Mattar, MD, a month later for a post-surgery follow up. He will continue to be monitored for any signs of future cancer activity.

Annual screenings can save your life

"I am thankful not to be having to do chemo or radiation therapy because my cancer was caught so early," said Kevin, who used long walks as part of his recovery to prepare to return to work in the shipping and receiving department of a local aircraft company. 

He was also grateful to have more time with his wife, son, stepdaughters and grandchildren and is looking forward to future motorcycle rides with family and friends.

His advice to others who meet lung cancer screening criteria can be summed up in two words: "Do it."

Talk to your doctor about your risk for lung cancer

Don’t wait to know more about your lung health. Talk to a doctor to understand your lung cancer risk. Getting a screening such as a low-dose CT scan may help find lung nodules or cancer early, when it is most treatable. Learn more about lung cancer screenings at Ascension Via Christi.