Early detection of lung cancer is incredibly difficult because most patients do not exhibit obvious symptoms until the disease has progressed. We talk to one lung cancer survivor about what brought him to the emergency room where an early diagnosis potentially saved his life.
Bryan Babineaux is back in the emergency room at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital saying “thank you” again to the woman he says saved his life.
“I was at work one day and I started choking and my esophagus ring had closed up and it caused a lot of vomiting,” he said.
A medical team reopened Babineaux’s throat, but it was the nurse practitioner, Donna Levy, that suggested a chest X-ray.
“The chest X-ray came back with a black spot on it, a little smaller than a golf ball,” said Babineaux.
Then came the diagnosis.
“He said, ‘regretfully I have to tell you that you have adenocarcinoma, which is lung cancer,’” said Babineaux. “It’s been a roller coaster ever since.”
Registered nurse, Jean Kamla, and sister to the late Ben Mount, who died of lung cancer, says there is technology to help with early detection. However, that technology is only readily available in select communities and targets smokers. Mount and Babineaux never smoked.
“It’s mainly people that have a long history of smoking that insurance will pay for the spiral CT,” said Kamla, “but as we know, lung cancer happens in anybody with lungs.”
Oftentimes lung cancer symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are confused with conditions like asthma and pneumonia. That is why it is so important that those in the medical community know the next step for lung cancer diagnosis: Screenings.
“A lung cancer diagnosis is an emergency,” said Kamla, “if we treat it quickly, we have different outcomes.”
For Babineaux, an early stage one diagnosis meant surgery could remove the tumor. There was no chemo, no radiation and no talks of deadly outcomes.
“It saved my life,” he said, “if it had been detected six months later or so, I think my story would not have a happy ending.”
There is currently a clinical trial in the works to hopefully create a saliva or blood test to help identify lung cancer earlier. Another big effort in Louisiana is “Access TLC” teaming lung cancer survivors with medical oncologists to have a better overview of the real-life lung cancer fight and how to improve it.