According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer
is responsible for the majority of cancer deaths in both men and women
throughout the United States.
This fact is why Donald Roberts’ primary care physician recommended
that he get a lung CT scan, based on his past history of smoking. Donald
(Don), who had been a smoker for more than 40 years, was attending his
annual physical when he received this life-saving recommendation.
“I had quit smoking over 10 years ago, and felt healthy with no symptoms,
but I trusted my physician and went in for the scan,” says Don.
“Little did I know, this small step helped save my life.”
Don visited Hoag Health Center-Huntington Beach for a CT scan. Following
the scan, a small area of concern was detected, and Don was followed with
another scan six months later. Unfortunately, the second CT scan revealed
that the area of concern had grown and needed to be biopsied to clarify
its nature. Through a minimally invasive needle biopsy, administered by
an experienced Hoag interventional radiologist, the growth was diagnosed
as stage 1 lung cancer.
Don was then referred to Hoag Family Cancer Institute, which is known for
having top surgeons who perform minimally invasive lung surgery. “As
I met with Hoag’s Lung Cancer Program team, I became more and more
comfortable. I knew I was in good hands.”
Leading-edge surgical options
After discussing his surgical options, Don decided on video-assisted thoracoscopic
surgery (VATS). VATS is a minimally invasive, leading-edge procedure that,
unlike standard thoracotomy (lung surgery), which requires a six to eight
inch incision, requires only four small incisions through which surgical
instruments and a thoracoscope are placed.
The minimally invasive VATS technique offers clear advantages over the
open-chest procedure. Traditional thoracotomy not only involves a large
incision, but also requires spreading the ribs and possibly severing muscles.
The VATS procedure, however, is completed through small keyhole incisions
without rib spreading or muscle damage.
And because of reduced chest wall trauma, recovery from a VATS procedure
is much quicker than traditional lung surgery. Patients benefit from shorter
hospital stays, less post-operative pain, less risk of post-operative
complications and faster recovery times.
Support through the journey
Helping Don and his wife during their journey through diagnosis, treatment
and recovery, was Lung Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Lilian Reed, R.N. Hoag’s
comprehensive Lung Cancer Program not only includes prevention, early
detection, and advanced treatment options, but also includes patient support
and education through a multidisciplinary team approach.
Along with Hoag’s team of experienced medical staff, Lilian meets
with patients and their families following diagnosis and guides them through
the treatment process by providing one-on-one support, and streamlined
access to lung cancer resources.
“Prior to my surgery I met with Lilian, who spent time explaining
the steps of surgery and recovery to me and my wife,” continues
Don. “She was there the day of surgery, and each day following,
making sure our questions were answered, providing support and education.”
In addition to the one-on-one support provided by the nurse coordinator,
lung cancer patients also benefit from educational and support programs
provided by Hoag Family Cancer Institute Oncology Support Services.
These programs include patient and family support groups led by licensed
clinical social workers and integrative care programs such as yoga and
pilates, creative art workshops and a Brighter Image program, which helps
cancer patients adjust to the physical changes from cancer treatment.
“A cancer diagnosis is not something you expect,” explains
Don. “Yet, at Hoag Family Cancer Institute, and under the care of
the lung cancer program team, I felt confident that I would beat my lung
And Don was right. Due to clear surgical margins and an overall positive
assessment of his case, Don received the good news that no chemotherapy
was needed; only a routine lung CT scan every six months. Just two short
months following his surgery, Don is back to his normal speed and enjoying
time with his wife and large family of children and grandchildren.
“I can’t thank my doctor enough for letting me know about the
importance of early detection,” says Don with a smile. “And
I am equally thankful for the life-saving care that the Hoag Family Cancer
Institute team provides to patients like me each day.”
To learn more about Hoag's Lung Cancer Program and VATS,