Doctor-Turned-Patient Focuses On What He Can Control After a Lung Cancer Diagnosis at Age 30


Dr. Dan Tran discusses his stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis at age 30, and how he has managed the shift from doctor to the patient with cancer.

Dr. Dan Tran was in residency and about to start a five-month rotation in anesthesia in the fall of 2017 when he developed back pain and numbness in his legs that made walking nearly impossible. After several tests, and just days before Christmas, Tran was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at the age of 30.

CURE® recently spoke with Tran, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Virginia Commonwealth University, about how he felt upon receiving his diagnosis at such a young age, and how he’s managed to keep a positive outlook in the years since.


CURE®: What was it like being diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 30?

Tran: I think it sucks. Everyone gets dealt a different set of cards, and I got dealt a crappy hand, but it kind of depends on what you do with it.

I've always had a pretty laid-back kind of personality and understood that there's things that I can't control and things I can't control. This is something I could not control, but I can control what I do with it. And so, I think that's helped me a lot. I think fixating on things that you can't control is what really ruins you, when that's all you think about.

Being that young, I was like, this isn't fair. Obviously, everyone thinks that. But there's a lot that isn’t fair. I was lucky enough that I at least had a daughter already. Some people who are diagnosed with cancer young, they can’t have kids anymore. I was already married; I had accomplished a lot of things I wanted to. As far as I career aspects, I didn't finish residency yet.

At first, when I had researched lung cancer, I didn't know much about it. And everything I read said, you have six to nine months live. And that was when I went through those stages of denial. I started bargaining. I was like nine months? Man, just give me five years. And so, I think I'm going to get that, thankfully.

Because I just want to see my daughter grow up a little bit because she was so young at the time. She was just a baby and not as fun at that age. But I just wanted to see her kind of grow up and see what she would most likely become, it's still tough to think about it sometimes. But that’s kind of where I'm at right now.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.

Related Videos
Image of a woman wearing a red tank top.
Image of a woman with a brown hair tied into a bun.
Image of Annie Bond.
Image of Dr. Jorge Cortes; a man with short dark hair wearing a suit.
Image of a man with brown hair.
Image of a woman with short brown hair and glasses.
Image of a woman with short brown hair and glasses.
Image of a man with brown hair and a suit and tie.
Image of a woman with brown bobbed hair with glasses.
Image of Dr. Minesh Mehta at ASCO 2024.