Published on June 29, 2017

Lung Cancer Screening Makes a Difference

In 2006, during tests for unrelated surgery, doctors in Boston discovered several nodules on Peg Vernon’s lung. The nodules remained unchanged during routine checkups for a couple of years and raised no concerns.

Fast forward to 2016, several years after Peg and her husband, Bob had retired and moved to Pembroke. Peg had told Jane Doherty, her nurse practitioner at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Concord, about the nodules, and that she had smoked from age 16 to 60.

Because of the smoking history and nodules, Daugherty suggested a new lung cancer screening scan to establish a baseline image of the lung. Results of a follow-up scan six months later showed changes in one nodule that raised suspicions.

Peg saw pulmonologist Dr. Thomas Akey at Concord Pulmonary Medicine, who ordered a PET scan that further raised concern that the tumor was cancerous. He recommended she see thoracic surgeon, Dr. G. Darby Pope, at Cardiothoracic Surgery. Both practices are part of Concord Hospital Medical Group.

Trusting her care to Concord Hospital was a big step for Peg and Bob. They had lived in Boston and wondered if she should seek treatment there. But, as soon as they met Dr. Pope, they felt assured Peg was in good hands.

“He was fantastic,” Peg said. “So kind. So calm.”

In December, Dr. Pope removed the tumor and a lobe of Peg’s lung. Because the cancer was caught so early, she required no further treatment.

The screening made the difference.

“It probably saved my life,” said Peg, a healthy 64-year-old, who had experienced no symptoms and had been very active – even walking a mile to and from work while living in Boston. Now, she uses that energy to keep up with four grandchildren who live next door in Pembroke.

Peg said early screening is important, even though many people might be concerned about receiving unwelcome news. “Obviously, nobody wants to hear that anything is wrong with them, but then to hear, ‘We caught it really early.’ I’m very fortunate.”