We often hear about the importance of cancer screening within a context of fear. If you wait too long, it could be too late. But William’s lung cancer screening story is one of success and hope for the future.
William Wedler had countless reasons to get a screening CT scan: He had a long history of smoking, was exposed to asbestos early in his career, and had been diagnosed with vocal cord cancer in 2013. After putting it off for many years, and with the encouragement of his wife, a registered nurse, he finally made an appointment in November 2020.
“The last time I had a CT scan of my lungs was in 2013, when I was recovering from vocal cord cancer,” says William. “There were nodules visible on that scan, and when I was scanned again in 2020, the nodules had grown.”
William was referred to a pulmonologist, who conducted an endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) bronchoscopy. While the physician couldn’t biopsy the nodules directly during the procedure, he took samples of tissue in the surrounding area to test for cancer. “When the biopsy of surrounding tissue came back negative, my pulmonologist suggested, with caution, that we continue to monitor the nodules,” William explains.
A few months later, Wedler got another CT scan that showed that his lung nodules had grown once again. “Our multidisciplinary lung nodule team looked at the results from his EBUS and CT scans and made the recommendation for surgery to remove and test the nodules,” says Emma-Ruth Paz-Querubin, APN-C, a nurse at the Jefferson Health – New Jersey Lung Nodule Center.
William underwent surgery on April 12, 2021. His nodules were removed and biopsied during the procedure, and it was found that they were, in fact, cancerous. “The surgeon removed the lower left lobe of my lungs, as well as a number of lymph nodes,” he recalls.
Thankfully, the cancer was stage I and had not spread.
Before he knew it, William was back to doing the things he loved, now cancer-free. “Within two weeks of surgery, I was out mowing my lawn and going to my grandson’s hockey games,” he says. “And by the end of the month, I was able to set up my family’s trailer at the Jersey shore, something I was unsure I would be able to do after surgery.”
William’s proactiveness in getting screened and following up with his providers led to his success story, and he now encourages everyone who is eligible to get screened for lung cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently updated its lung cancer screening recommendations to include adults ages 50 to 80 who have a 20 pack-year (average number of packs smoked per day multiplied by number of years smoked) smoking history and currently smoke or have quit smoking within the last 15 years.
“If you meet the criteria for lung cancer screening, don’t be afraid to get a CT scan,” says Emma-Ruth. “The purpose of screening is to detect lung nodules that could potentially be cancerous. Finding them early increases the chance of getting cured and getting back to normal life.”