Sunday, January 13, 2013

screen for lung cancer

I cannot help but notice the trumpeted endorsements by Lung Cancer Alliance and others of low dose CT screening for those at high risk for lung cancer.

Likely I am writing this today because my Nurse Practitioner over a year ago went a step further and believed a chest x-ray should be part of an annual physical.

I write about my odyssey with Stage 1 lung cancer. With increased availability of CT screening there should be more of us filling the ranks of those trying to survive lung cancer every day – DO NOT wait for symptoms!

Unfortunately, there is no “idiot’s guide to a pre-lung cancer diagnosis” – so just a few thoughts having recently walked the walked myself.  

When I heard the words ‘suspicious’ and ‘nodule’ in the same phrase with lung, I immediately wanted to know how long I had to live.

A year ago an X-ray begat a CT scan which begat a PET Scan. As all this stretched on for over a month I became mentally, emotionally and physically obsessed by the question. Time gets real relative when the word lung cancer enters your daily vocabulary.

Yet, from receptionists to medical technicians to my Nurse Practitioner and eventually Pulmonologist I was stonewalled by an ever growing conspiracy of silence or optimism, “it could be a lot of things”.  

When I tried a new tack by simply typing my scan reports into Google and calculating my own prognosis then asking my Nurse Practitioner to comment, she suggested I “step away from the Internet”.

Once diagnosed, I was buried in helpful materials like manna falling from heaven but pre-diagnosis I was wandering alone in the proverbial wilderness.

The time of waiting I learned is known as scanxiety.  Like a lot of things artists express it better. When the songwriter is also a thoracic oncologist you get lyrics like these below to “Scanxiety”:
“I long for words of warmth, support and empathy
I need your compassion
Not your dominance
Nor your disrespect”
Patrick Leer
Health Activist:
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @

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