With the many advances in cancer treatment, today’s cancer patients have more and more reasons for hope. Portraits of Hope are the incredible stories of our patients and their journeys of hope and survival. Click on a thumbnail and scroll down to view each story.
In 2015, Fred Ham’s primary care physician, Dr. Cory Smith, recommended he undergo a low-dose CT screening for lung cancer. A farmer all his life and a smoker since his days in the Army, 74-year-old Fred agreed to the test. In fact, every June for the next five years Fred returned to McLeod for the annual screening.
McLeod Health established the Lung Cancer Screening Program to detect lung cancer earlier and save lives through the use of low-dose lung CT scans in 2014. Since then, the program has expanded to include three dedicated nurse navigators, a lung nodule clinic, patient conferences with multiple specialists and innovative treatment options.
In June 2020, Fred’s annual CT scan resulted in a recommendation from the McLeod Lung Cancer Screening Team that he undergo another CT in three months.
Following this screening scan, the team recommended a PET (positron emission tomography) scan. This test uses radioactive tracers to detect early signs of cancer and other diseases.
Fred’s PET scan indicated a potentially cancerous lung nodule and a referral was made to Dr. Vinod Jona, a McLeod Pulmonologist. After meeting with Fred, Dr. Jona scheduled a navigational bronchoscopy with endobronchial ultrasound to stage the cancerous lung nodule. Fred also underwent pulmonary function tests.
At the time, Fred was one of the first patients to participate in the McLeod Lung Nodule Clinic. Dr. Jona explained the clinic was established to evaluate and monitor those patients who have been screened for lung cancer and a pulmonary nodule was detected, or those who had a nodule found incidentally as a result of a lung CT scan after a car accident, pneumonia or injury. “This clinic enables us to determine the patient’s risk of developing lung cancer and ensure they receive high quality care and follow the evidence-based guidelines.”
HALLMARKS OF THE McLEOD LUNG NODULE PROGRAM INCLUDES:
Each clinic patient receives complete testing and consultation with a physician to determine the best course of action for them, all in one visit.
This simplifies things for the patient while maximizing early detection of disease and minimizing unnecessary medical or surgical procedures.
“Any lung nodule patient who is referred to our program is first evaluated by the Lung Nodule Clinic Nurse Navigator Ainsleigh Brown who reviews their history and CT scans,” said Dr. Jona.
INITIAL EVALUATION IN THE LUNG NODULE CLINIC ALSO INCLUDES:
In addition to Brown, patients also have access to two other specially trained nurse navigators: Beth Epps, the Lung Cancer Nurse Navigator, and Amy Perugini, the Lung Cancer Screening Navigator. These three McLeod Nurse Navigators guide patients through the often complicated process of their medical care from initial screening and detection, to diagnosis and treatment, and on through to recovery and rehabilitation.
“Understanding that decisions are best made when the patient and family are involved, we now invite our lung nodule patients to participate in a conference with providers from multiple specialties before they may ever be diagnosed with lung cancer,” said
Dr. Jona. “We offer this through a virtual platform for the convenience of our patients.”
During the conference, physicians review the pertinent history, imaging scans, diagnostic studies, and pathology, and develop a plan appropriate for the patient.
Fred and his family participated in the first multidisciplinary rounds in late October 2020. “We were at my daughter Rose’s house and the doctors were talking to me while my daughters compiled the information,” said Fred about the virtual exchange.
After hearing the recommendations of the medical team, Fred chose radiation treatment to eliminate his Stage I lung cancer. Beginning in early November 2020, he underwent eight rounds of stereotactic body radiation therapy at the McLeod Cancer Center.
“The patient benefits by having easy access to all of these experts at one time as well as the opportunity to ask questions,” added Dr. Jona. “This close communication enhances the patient’s care and the management of their disease. The patient remains at the center of what we do, and this team mindset gives us an opportunity to deliver the most advanced, effective treatment available to patients diagnosed with lung cancer.”
A year later, Fred encourages others to be proactive and have the screening if recommended by their provider.
“I am very happy I got the screening all those years,” said Fred. “I want to help anyone I can by telling them about my experience.”