After five decades of smoking, Tana Allain was hesitant to go in for her first lung cancer screening. But regular screenings made a difference, helping her doctor to find and remove a tumor before it was too late. Allain encourages other smokers and former smokers to be screened regularly.
A Friend’s Good Advice
Allain had no concerning symptoms and only knew to get screened because a friend recommended it. “Three years ago, she told me Medicare would pay for me to go get a chest CT,” she says. Because she likes to be proactive and the CT was no cost to her, Allain got her first scan done. “I was scared to death because I’d been smoking for 50 years.”
The first scan found a nodule, which was thought to be scarring from pneumonia. The next year’s screening also didn’t find anything worrisome, but this year the nodule had grown to 8 millimeters and needed follow-up care.
Compassionate, Comprehensive Cancer Care
Allain received her care from Emily Cassidy, MD, thoracic surgeon with Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group. Dr. Cassidy and her team explained everything that could happen if the spot on her lung were benign or if it were cancer.
“I honestly thought it was going to be benign and I would just come on home, go about my business and continue to smoke, but it didn’t happen that way,” Allain says. The spot was cancer, and Dr. Cassidy was able to remove it with robotic surgery.
Allain went into the hospital on a Friday morning for her minimally invasive robotic surgery, and part of her right lung was removed along with the cancer. She was able to go home the following Monday, experiencing a faster recovery than she would have with a more traditional open surgery.
“Dr. Cassidy really knows her stuff, and she has been the most caring doctor,” Allain says. “The care that I got at Our Lady of the Lake was just so awesome. They were so good to me. It could have been a really horrible experience for me had it not been for the people that were caring for me.”
Get Regular Lung Cancer Screenings
“I’m really glad that I was diligent in getting those scans because we caught it all right at the beginning,” Allain says. “Anyone who’s afraid—and I was afraid every time I went to get a scan done—just suck it up buttercup and go get it done.”
The lung cancer CT screening itself wasn’t a big deal, Allain says. “The most I had to do was take off my necklace. I really would encourage anybody that’s smoked as long as I have to go.”
In addition to stopping smoking, Allain is doing everything she can to keep herself healthy, using her spirometer, a device that measures the amount of air she’s able to breathe in and out; taking walks; and staying busy. She’s working with her primary care provider on smoking cessation support.
What Might Have Been
Without regular screenings, Allain’s cancer likely wouldn’t have been caught early enough for this type of treatment because she had not yet experienced any concerning symptoms.
“I feel so blessed about the entire thing,” Allain says. “The entirety of Dr. Cassidy detecting it early and the people that took care of me and made me feel so comfortable.”