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Catching Lung Cancer Early

Posted on November 19, 2020 in Patient Stories

Low-dose CT scans find cancer at a more treatable stage

Gregory Dorsett

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States and worldwide. In the U.S., lung cancer is responsible for about 27 percent of cancer deaths, more than deaths from breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.

Smoking and secondhand smoke cause more than 85 percent of lung cancers. The disease was once virtually incurable, but new treatments and technologies have improved the prognosis.

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center offers a specialized weapon in the fight against lung cancer: low-dose CT scans.

Early Detection is Key

Low-dose CT scanning is a special kind of X-ray technology that combines multiple images into a detailed picture of a patient’s lungs, allowing for detection of the earliest signs of lung cancer.

While a chest X-ray can show large tumors, for lung cancer, early diagnosis is key.

In the past, patients would often be in a much later stage of disease when diagnosed—often too advanced for curative treatment. Now, with low-dose CT scans, Fort Sanders Regional can screen patients at high risk for lung cancer much sooner, identifying cancerous areas at a much earlier stage. The scan administers approximately the same amount of radiation as a mammogram.

In the Nick of Time

Gregory Dorsett of Knoxville is a former smoker who knows the value of early detection. His low-dose CT scan found a small-cell cancerous spot on his lung.

“I found out I had cancer when I went for a regular physical. They found it early.”

Dorsett’s doctor recommended that he join the chest clinic at Thompson Cancer Survival Center, adjacent to Fort Sanders Regional. The team at the clinic decided Dorsett qualified for a low-dose CT scan, which detected his lung cancer early.

Small-cell lung cancer is the fastest growing and fastest-spreading type of lung cancer. It is dangerous because it can metastasize rapidly beyond the lungs to other parts of the body.

Dorsett had surgery at Fort Sanders Regional to remove the spots on his lungs. After surgery, he endured five sessions of radiation followed by chemotherapy. “I remember when I started to lose my hair, I went ahead and shaved my head bald,” he laughs. He recalls feeling nauseated at times but had no major issues during treatment.

Without low-dose CT scanning, the spots on Dorsett’s lungs would not have been detected early. His care team is certain: “This scan saved his life.”

Gregory Dorsett with his caseworker Becca and his nurse navigator Jo

Dorsett is happy with his experience at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and Thompson Cancer Survival Center. “They treated me great. Jo (his nurse navigator) and Becca (his caseworker) – they were great.

“When I first started [treatment], I told my family, ‘Don’t wait until something hurts to get checked out.’ Many people in my family have passed away from cancer because it was too late for them to get help.”

Dorsett has finished treatment and is currently on surveillance. His last scan was in October 2020 and showed good results, with no new evidence of disease. “I feel great,” he says. “I go back every three months to be checked out.”

He encourages others to get checked out, too. “I tell everyone, ‘get checked for cancer even if you don’t have symptoms.’ I didn’t have any symptoms, but they found something at a check-up that made me get tested. And I’m glad I did.”

Read more on low-dose CT screening.

Award-Winning Oncology Treatment

Commission on Cancer

Cancer services at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center are accredited by the Commission on Cancer.

Fort Sanders Regional has been named to a national list of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems with Great Oncology Programs” by Becker’s Hospital Review

 “100 Hospitals and Health Systems with Great Oncology Programs” (2016-2018)

Fort Sanders Regional has been named to a national list of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems with Great Oncology Programs” by Becker’s Hospital Review, marking the third consecutive year the hospital has been included on the list. This designation means that we lead the way in oncology expertise, outcomes, research and treatment options.