Lung Specialist Dr George Zlupko's been treating Patricia DeGennaro since 2007. Although she'd quit smoking about five years before that, she kept coming down with bronchitis. Because of her smoking history, Dr. Zlupko did periodic CT scans of Patricia's lungs.
There was no sign of cancer until April 2011. Patricia remembers, "the last CT scan he did, he said there was something had changed and he did a PET scan and that showed the tumor."
Patricia underwent chemotherapy and radiation before having the upper left lobe of her lung removed. "I feel wonderful. I'm cancer free. I've been cancer free since August, the 22nd of last year and I just feel great."
Dr. Zlupko says, "some of the data would have suggested we stop her survillance several years actually earlier, but because of her high risk I felt it was necessary to continue to survey her and it proved very helpful to her and lifesaving."
Dr Zlupko now offers a Lung Cancer Early Detection Program for people 55 or older who've smoked for 30 years. A recent study shows in that group of patients, a yearly CT scan reduce the rate of death from lung cancer by 20%. He admits, it doesn't sound like much, but adds, "this is a huge improvement, when you consider the survival rate for most patients with lung cancer the five year survival rate is about 15%."
Patricia, for one, is a believer. "I feel if you get it early enough, as in my case, you'll be cured and I am cured," she says.
About 100 people are enrolled in the Lung Cancer Early Detection Program at the Lung Disease Center of Central Pennsylvania.