Early lung cancer detection: New guidelines and technology offer hope

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COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – This week, the American Cancer Society updated its guidelines for lung cancer screenings, lowering the age at which smokers or former smokers should get screened from 55 to 50. 

They also recommend people who have a 20 or greater pack-year history of smoking get screened, regardless of when they quit lighting up.

“I actually started smoking when I was about 14 and stopped when I was maybe 68,” Bonnie Threet, a Novi resident, said. 

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Andres Gutierrez/CBS Detroit


But ever since she was 29, Threet has had annual tests for a nodule in her left lung after sustaining a softball injury.

This past spring, her primary care doctor noticed something on a scan that warranted further examination.  

“The test is easy. It takes a few minutes. It’s pretty cheap, it’s covered by your insurance, you don’t have to have an IV,” said Dr. Lawrence MacDonald, Chief of Pulmonology at DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital. 

Dr. MacDonald performed a lung biopsy using a robotic-assisted bronchoscopy.

“This goes in and out of the patient’s chest at various angles and distances to more accurately find where the nodule is,” Dr. MacDonald said during a demonstration of the equipment to CBS News Detroit on Friday. 

He discovered a small section of cancer in Threet’s right lung.

“When I first got it, I was in shock. Like, ‘That cannot be. I have these tests every year, and it’s always negative.’ But then you cry, then you’re afraid what’s going to happen? Then you deal with it,” Threet said. 

After doing five rounds of radiation, Threet is scheduled for another scan later this month.

“Through primary care doctors ordering lung cancer screening tests, and having this sort of technology available, I believe, and it’s already been demonstrated, five-year survival from lung cancer is probably gone from about 15% to 20-23%. Just through those techniques, that’s huge,” McDonald said. 

In honor of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the hospital’s Charach Cancer Treatment Center will host its second annual “Shine the Light on Lung Cancer” event on Nov. 9 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. 

Guests will receive a gift flashlight, learn about screenings, and hear from speakers impacted by lung cancer.

“I’m hoping that many people will not be afraid to go get the lung exam and find out, and if you do have it, you take it from there and catch it early. So you can be cured,” Threet said. 

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