For a long time, Eileen Hewson of East Meadow had been feeling ill and had a persistent cough, and visits to her primary care physician did not result in a diagnosis. She even insisted on getting a chest X-ray, which also failed to produce conclusive results.
“My doctor said that my lungs sounded fine,” Eileen says. Eventually, she was diagnosed with emphysema. Eileen’s pulmonologist also urged her to see a cardiologist, believing that some of her symptoms might have a cardiac component. She received a second diagnosis, cardiomyopathy, and as part of her treatment, underwent a procedure to place an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. Eileen’s puzzle was not yet complete, but a little bit of serendipity would put her in touch with the people who could give her the final piece.
Eileen’s husband, while visiting his own cardiologist, saw a poster advertising the Lung Cancer Screening Program at Catholic Health. He mentioned it to Eileen and given her history of smoking, her current diagnoses, and all she had been through thus far, she felt it was wise to get another check. Her first CT scan looked normal. Nevertheless, Eileen opted for a second CT scan, a little over a year later following a heart surgery. She was told, in spite of being urged to return annually, many patients never come back for a second screening after the first results in a clean scan. This is often how cancers go undetected until they’ve reached a late stage. The importance of returning became obvious as there was one more diagnosis to be had: early stage lung cancer. “I’m so grateful the people at the Lung Cancer Screening Program stayed on me about it, they saved my life” says Eileen.
The Catholic Health team moved quickly and treated Eileen before her cancer had the opportunity to progress. What followed was a series of tests and frequent contact with Sharad Chandrika, MD, Director, Lung Cancer Screening Program. “She was in touch with me almost daily to make sure I was getting to all my appointments and having all my tests done,” Eileen says. “The entire team, everyone I worked with moved mountains to keep everything moving so that I could be treated quickly.” This included a priority angiogram, a scan that shows blood flow through arteries, veins, or the heart, before her lung cancer surgery.
Eileen was seen by one of Catholic Health’s Thoracic Surgeons, Mark Genovesi, MD. He performed a right upper lobectomy at Good Samaritan University Hospital, and pathology confirmed the diagnosis as primary lung adenocarcinoma. The Catholic Health team also helped bolster Eileen’s spirits in the face of a difficult diagnosis. “They were so comforting and positive, and really helped me get into a good head space,” she says.
Eileen also met postoperatively with Ashish Sangal, MD, a Medical Oncologist at the Catholic Health Cancer Institute at Good Samaritan, where it was determined that the best plan of action for her early-stage non-small cell lung adenocarcinoma was clinical surveillance. Ultimately, thanks to early detection and prompt surgical treatment (only a few short months after diagnosis, and not much longer since her surgery to place her defibrillator), Eileen required no chemotherapy or radiation as part of her treatment.
What struck Eileen after her successful treatment and care, was the positive and supporting attitude of everyone she encountered. “Everyone was truly concerned, and so helpful,” she says. “Everywhere I went people were waiting for me and they knew my story.”
The Lung Cancer Screening program at Catholic Health is coordinated by Angela Folan, Nurse Practitioner, and Lynn Quigley, Program Coordinator, and has seen to many positive outcomes for patients like Eileen. Call 844-CHS-LUNG (844-247-5864) for more information.