Both my mother and sister died of lung cancer. My sister’s was the same as mine. Her story motivated my action.
My mother died about 6 months after they discovered her lung cancer. Several years later my sister had a routine chest x-ray after the birth of her second child and they discovered a lesion on one of her lungs. The doctor’s were unsure what it was and decided to watch it. It remained unchanged for a long time and they thought it might be an encapsulated infection. She had no symptoms, so they just followed it. She even got a second opinion from my mother’s doctors. About 2 years after they discovered it she started to have some symptoms and they then decided to do a biopsy and then they discovered it was cancer. She underwent chemo for a number of years, but they were unable to control it and she died several years later.
Because of my mother’s and sister’s histories I requested that my physician do a chest x-ray periodically. My doctor said that there was evidence that CT scans were a more reliable indicator than a chest x-ray. He therefore was able to convince my insurance carrier that I needed a CT scan. I wanted to have this done as a base line, but when they actually did the CT they discovered a lesion. They followed with a PET scan that showed some cell activity in the area of the lesion. I decided to have a second opinion and went to Dr. David Jablons, a specialist in lung cancer at UCSF. He felt that the lesion should be removed. As it turned out, it was indeed a cancerous lesion, but fortunately in the very early stages with no lymph node involvement. I am now 2 and a half years cancer free (as of March 2007) and recently had a CT & PET scan, which were clear.
I am sure that if I had not been pro-active about a base-line scan and if my doctor had not been willing to do the CT & PET scans that I might not have discovered the lesion until it was too late.
I might add that none of us were smokers. My mother and I smoked socially for a few years, but that was well over 40 years ago. My sister never smoked.