Early detection of lung cancer still tricky, doctors say

By Britney Glaser, NBC News | Posted - Apr 20th, 2013 @ 3:41pm



LAKE CHARLES, La. — Early detection of lung cancer is still difficult because most patients do not exhibit obvious symptoms until the disease has progressed, doctors say.

Bryan Babineaux was at work one day when he started choking. He said his esophagus had closed up, and it was causing a lot of vomiting.

At the hospital, a medical team reopened Babineaux's throat, but it was a nurse practitioner, Donna Levy, that suggested a chest X-ray.

"The chest X-ray came back with a black spot on it, a little smaller than a golf ball," Babineaux said.

Then came the diagnosis.

"He said, 'regretfully I have to tell you that you have adenocarcinoma, which is lung cancer,'" said Babineaux. "It's been a roller coaster ever since."

Registered nurse, Jean Kamla, whose brother recently died of lung cancer, said there is technology to help with early detection. That technology, however, is only readily available in select communities and targets smokers. Neither her brother or Babineaux never smoked.

"It's mainly people that have a long history of smoking that insurance will pay for the spiral CT," said Kamla, "But as we know, lung cancer happens in anybody with lungs."

Oftentimes lung cancer symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are confused with conditions like asthma and pneumonia. That is why it is so important that those in the medical community know the next step for lung cancer diagnosis: screenings.

"A lung cancer diagnosis is an emergency," said Kamla, "If we treat it quickly, we have different outcomes."

For Babineaux, an early stage one diagnosis meant surgery could remove the tumor. There was no chemo, no radiation and no talks of deadly outcomes.

"It saved my life," he said, "if it had been detected six months later or so, I think my story would not have a happy ending."

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