A smoker for over 35 years, Marla Olson was diagnosed with pneumonia, so the idea of lung cancer wasn’t completely out of the question. She received antibiotics, but decided to make an appointment with the Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance just in case, on the advice of her sister.
During her clinic visit, her doctor asked many detailed questions about all of the symptoms Marla had experienced over the last few weeks. She had a lung CT scan then, too, which showed a mass that took up nearly her entire lung. In addition, there were several enlarged lymph nodes in the middle of her chest, which, in some patients, may represent the spread of lung cancer beyond her lungs.
The next step was a bronchoscopy (a procedure that allows the physician to see directly into the interior passageways of the lower respiratory tract through a bronchoscope—a long, narrow, fiberoptic, lighted tube that is inserted through the nose or mouth).
“I’ve never been so impressed with a doctor’s professionalism as I was with mine at SCCA,” Marla says. “He didn’t talk down to me. He let me take all the time I needed to talk to him and ask him questions. Then, he got the nurses to come in and talk to me about smoking cessation – and we agreed that the next day I’d quit smoking.” The next morning, right after getting out of the shower, Marla put on one of the nicotine patches she’d received free from the SCCA pharmacy.
Marla feared the worst and could hardly believe it when the phone rang early Monday morning after her bronchoscopy. Her doctor gave Marla the best news – no cancer! Even her lymph nodes were clear!
A follow-up CT revealed that the antibiotics for her pneumonia were doing their job and the mass was less than half its original size. “Additional follow-up CTs will be necessary to make sure the mass, which was likely pneumonia, resolves completely,” her doctor said. “It is highly unlikely that lung cancer was the cause, given the dramatic improvement.”
“Marla has been one of the happiest outcomes we have had in the Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic,” her SCCA doctor said. “A great example of how a thorough work-up is important before designating someone as having cancer.”