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Avera Medical Minute: Planet Heart screening helps find unexpected health issue

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 10:41 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -A Centerville man is urging others tonight to make health a top priority. After getting a preventative screening at the Avera Heart Hospital. A scan revealed an unexpected health issue that was caught just in time.

Last September, Scott Wellenstein learned just how important it is to keep up on his health. His wife worked in the medical field and urged him to get a Planet Heart screening done at the Avera Heart Hospital.

“You get busy in your world and she kept, you know, reminding me ‘Come on let’s go.’ So we decided we would both go in and we took the Planet Heart at the same time,” said Wellenstein.

The screening helps determine someone’s risks for heart disease. However, when the scan came back, Wellenstein’s concern was no longer with his heart, but another part of his chest.

Although the screening focuses on heart health, the scan can also pick up on areas around the heart.

“Have a radiologist overread those images to make sure we don’t miss anything in the lungs as well. And there was something abnormal that showed on the lung scan,” said Avera Pulmonologist Dr. Anthony Hericks.

The screening found nodules or growths of abnormal tissue. Wellenstein went to Dr. Hericks to make sure they weren’t harmful. The initial nodules turned out to be benign but led Dr. Hericks to an important finding.

“The thing is we spotted something and it gave us reason for concern to keep following up until we were totally satisfied and we found out we had cancer,” said Wellenstein.

The news was tough to hear.

“Denial, it doesn’t happen to you. This is something that happens to someone else. I couldn’t believe it. I was a former smoker. I quit many, many years ago and I’m saying this isn’t happening to me, you know. But it happens to you,” said Wellenstein.

Luckily for Wellenstein, it was early-stage lung cancer.

Dr. Hericks teamed up with Dr. Paul Meyer, a Cardiothoracic Surgeon with the North Central Heart Institute to figure out the best course of action, which ended up being surgery.

“This was a curable cancer by surgical intent, meaning that if it would have been missed and not seen a few months or years down the road, it may not have been curable, it might have been treatable, but not curable like this potentially is,” said Dr. Hericks.

Doctors say the Planet Heart screening was potentially lifesaving for Wellenstein.

“One of the difficulties with lung cancer is that it does not cause symptoms, generally. And so it can grow to be very large before anything is found and in fact, a lot of the cancers we do find are found on incidental imaging studies where people will come in for something different,” said Dr. Meyer.

Wellenstein is now healing and looking forward to spending time with family on his Centerville farm.

“Cloud nine. Life can’t get any better, It really can’t. And I wish, everyone, do your due diligence. You get busy in life and when something like this happens, your life changes,” said Wellenstein.

“Take care of your health. If you don’t have your health you have nothing,” he added.

The Planet Heart screening is recommended for men age 40 and older and women age 45 and older. As well as those with a strong family history of heart disease.

For more information on getting a Planet Heart screening head to avera.org.

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