Avera Medical Minute: Lung Cancer Screening

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Pat Powell remembers when she started smoking. "We all did it back in our day. Thought it was joining all the rest. I started probably when I was 18 and gave it up about ten years ago," said Powell.

Pat's doctor applauded her decision to quit and made a suggestion.

"And she said it wouldn't hurt to have an early lung screen. Well, I did. It ended up they saw three white spots on my right lung. they wanted to know how long they were there and I said I have no idea," said Powell.

Thankfully they caught Pat's cancer early. Avera Oncologist Dr. Heidi McKean says the lung cancer screening could detect a nodule or mass, long before symptoms develop.

"The screening CT test takes probably less than 15 minutes for you to lay flat and let the machine just run through the lung fields. It's a low dose of radiation felt to be safe for patients, and typically the screening CT is once a year," said Dr. McKean.

Pat's next step: surgery to remove cancer.

"There was a little bit more cancer there than we knew of. She ended up having to have more parts of her lung removed at the time of surgery because there was some difficulty with some air leak and the found a second site of cancer in that lung," said Dr. McKean.

Results from a national lung screen trial showed that screening current and former smokers with low-dose CT scans reduced their risk of dying from lung cancer by 20 percent. Pat is more than a statistic.

"So she's a very fortunate woman for us to find the cancer when it was like this and not spread throughout the body," said Dr. McKean.

With the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation behind her, Pat is back to work and looks forward to the future with a laugh. " I want ten more years of my life then I don't care," said Powell.