Remember the game "Operation?"
In a surgical suite at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, it is a precision game using the latest technology available to surgeons.
In the hands of thoracic surgeon Peter Baik, D.O., the DaVinciXi gives him a magnified view inside his patient and allows him to search out and remove even the tiniest of tumors in the fight against lung cancer, the nation's leading cause of cancer deaths.
"Smaller incisions, more precise, highly magnified and be able to have the patients go home earlier," said Dr. Peter Baik, Thoracic Surgery Director at CTCA, who specializes in minimally invasive procedures.
Deneisa Calvert, a fifth-generation resident of Eufaula, is just one of the patients he treated for non-small cell lung cancer which accounts for nearly nine out of every 10 cases. He spent 9 hours using the robotic system to remove a large tumor and part of her lung to help save her life.
"It sure beats that cut from the middle of your back all the way around and up to the front, you know," Deneisa Calvert said. Having undergone several major back surgeries in the past, she knows how difficult it is to recover from large incisions. She says she has only some tiny scars on her back from the small incisions needed in the lung cancer procedure she underwent at CTCA in Tulsa.
"The next day, I got up and walked down the hall with a walker," she said.
Deneisa is actually fortunate because her cancer was caught relatively early and it is a type that usually grows at a slower rate than small cell lung cancer. Most people with lung cancer don't have any symptoms until it's advanced, Dr. Baik told 2 Works for You anchor Karen Larsen.
"When it is found at stage 3 or stage 4, the mortality rate - 5-year survival rate - is less than 20-percent," Dr. Baik said. "Which is not great."
The numbers from the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association are startling:
- Every two and half minutes, someone in the United States is told that they have lung cancer, and every single day 400 people lose their lives to the devastating disease.
- The rate of new lung cancer cases in Oklahoma is 71.6, higher than the national rate of 63.0, and ranks 40th among all states.
- The smoking rate in Oklahoma is 22.2 percent, higher than the national average of 16.8 percent.
- In the last 41 years, lung cancer incidence has increased 87 percent among women.
- 48 percent of women diagnosed with lung cancer will not survive one year after diagnosis, as lung cancer is most often diagnosed at later stages when the disease is less curable.
Deneisa did not have any symptoms to warn her of the cancer. She was suffering from a stomach virus that sent her to urgent care for treatment. While there, the doctor prescribed an X-ray which revealed a large mass in her lung. Advised to find a thoracic surgeon, she turned to Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa in July of 2016.
"And then my daughter and I walked through the door," she said. "And I thought, it's going to be OK!"
After surgery, she underwent preventive chemotherapy.
"I always knew what was happening," Deneisa said. "I was never in the dark and I never had anybody that couldn't answer my questions. I felt very blessed the whole time I was here. I always felt that I was in really good hands."
Two and a half years later, she is doing great. She spends her spare time helping cancer patients who are not as fortunate and organizes bake sales to raise money for their medical treatments and meals for families with children. Deneisa plans to help others while achieving her own personal goal of remaining healthy and strong and enjoying her husband and family. She now only sees her cancer care team every 6 months.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa provided this list of lung cancer risk factors and symptoms:
- About two out of three lung cancers are diagnosed in people over age 65, and most people are older than 45. The average age at diagnosis is 71.
- Family history: Genetics may predispose certain people to lung cancer.
Individuals with an immediate family member who has or had lung cancer (and who does not or did not smoke) may be more prone to developing the disease.
Smoking and secondhand smoke: Smoking is widely considered the leading cause of lung cancer. For those who don't smoke but are exposed to smoke at home or work, secondhand smoke may significantly increase their risk of lung cancer.
Exposure to asbestos or other pollutants: Carcinogenic chemicals in the workplace increase lung cancer risk, especially if you smoke.
Exposure to radon: Radon is a colorless, scentless radioactive gas that is found in some houses and is a leading cause of lung cancer.
According to a CTCA release, "lung cancer symptoms may include a cough that lingers over an extended period of time. Other early signs include a chronic cough that is deeper and more hoarse than usual or a constant cough that produces blood in spit or phlegm. When no other medical conditions such as sickness or unexplained weight gain have developed, patients who experience shortness of breath, or who are easily winded or wheezing during normal activities, may consider being tested for lung cancer, since these may be early indicators of the disease."
Dr. Baik recommends lung cancer screening for people between the ages of 50-80; have at least a 30 pack-year history or 20-pack year with other risk factors or if you are a current smoker or have smoked for the past 15 years.
If you think you might be at risk for cancer, Dr. Baik encourages patients to be proactive. Get regular checkups and talk with your primary care physician about the need for lung cancer screening. If something is discovered, he recommends getting a second opinion and doing plenty of research so patients are well-informed about their options.
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