Hibbing woman now living without lung cancer thanks to care from Essentia

A Hibbing woman is now free of lung cancer, and credits Essentia Health for her care

A look at how a Hibbing woman is now cancer-free, thanks to care and technology at Essentia Health.

Carol Lee is looking forward to a house full of people on Thanksgiving. And she won’t have to deal with a nagging cough that had plagued her for so long.

“It was embarrassing,” she told us. It turns out, it was a symptom of her lung cancer.

Lee met with the experts at Essentia in September 2022. A CT scan showed she had a nodule in her lung. Lee was referred to Dr. Eric Swanson, an Essentia pulmonologist.

“I like him a lot,” Lee told us. “He answered all my questions.”

Dr. Swanson deployed several tools to diagnose, locate and remove the nodule with the help of Dr. Ryan Clark, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Essentia.

“I’m so grateful that Essentia has the tools and technology to catch this early and move so quickly to help me get healthy again,” said Lee.

The nodule was small and located adjacent to the aortic arch – a high-risk area for biopsy. Dr. Swanson and Dr. Clark determined the best route forward was to perform a combined procedure.

The first tool Dr. Swanson used was Auris Health’s Monarch Platform – a minimally invasive endoscopy machine that views the inside of lungs with computer-assisted navigation based on 3D models of the patient’s own lung anatomy. It allows for early diagnoses of lung nodules, which make the treatment of lung cancer more successful.

“We’ve always wanted to be able to get out into this space in order to biopsy these nodules. Historically, we could get close to a lot of times, but I didn’t have the ability to make those fine tune adjustments. And and now with this one, I can just move it, and we can reach a lot more areas,” Swanson told us.

Dr. Swanson was able to guide the camera into Lee’s lung and mark the nodule with a special dye to make surgery easier. Dr. Clark then used near-infrared fluorescence, which illuminates the dye, making it easy for the surgeon to see where the small nodule was located. Using the da Vinci robot, Dr. Clark inserted instruments and a camera through a small incision in Lee’s chest and guided the robotic-assisted arms to the nodule and removed it.

The surgery was a major success. Lee had no evidence of disease folowing surgery.

“In a select patient population these complementary procedures allow for a patient to be diagnosed, staged and cured in the same setting in a minimally invasive way,” said Dr. Swanson.

The minimally invasive procedure was performed in just a couple hours and Lee was able to go home after just two days. “For me, it was a miracle to have that, considering where my spot was,” Lee said.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

More about lung cancer

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time to consider a lung cancer screening.

Lung cancer causes more cancer-related deaths in the United States than any other type of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s the third-most common cancer in the U.S.

Lung cancer symptoms may include:

·         Coughing that gets worse, doesn’t go away or includes blood.

·         Chest pain.

·         Shortness of breath.

·         Wheezing.

Often, lung cancer symptoms don’t show up until the cancer has spread or is in an advanced stage. Screening helps detect cancer early even if you don’t have signs or symptoms. When lung cancer is caught early, it can be easier to treat.

Talk to your primary care provider to determine if a lung cancer screening is right for you. Most insurance companies cover screenings as part of preventive care. Contact your insurance carrier for more information about your coverage.

One of the best ways to reduce your risk of lung cancer is by quitting smoking. At Essentia, they can help patients ditch smoking with the help of our smoking-cessation experts.