Reading the Fine Print: How a Footnote on a CT Scan Led to an Unexpected Lung Cancer Diagnosis

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A man shares how reading the footnote of a CT scan looking for heart disease alerted him to a mass in his right lung, leading to an unexpected diagnosis of lung cancer.

Has anyone ever thought that reading the fine print of a document would save their life?

When David Sturges, an attorney from New Ulm, Minnesota, went to the doctor for a CT scan to assess his risk for heart disease, he wasn’t expecting a lung cancer diagnosis. After all, he had quit smoking almost 20 years ago and was only 53 years old.

However, when the scan came back with a footnote noting there was a mass on the lobe of his right lung, Sturges immediately went in for a biopsy. In February 2002, he was diagnosed with stage 1A non-small lung cancer and shortly after, had a lobectomy (the removal of the lower lobe of the right lung).

A year later, his doctor noticed a new suspicious mass and recommended another surgery. When Sturges sought a second opinion, the new oncologist stated that he did not recommend surgery at that time. With regular screening that monitored the growth of the tumor, Sturges was able to avoid another surgery until 2017.

On today’s episode of the “Cancer Horizons” podcast, Sturges, who is now 75, shares how cancer treatments have changed in the past 21 years, his advocacy work with the Lung Cancer Foundation of America (a research foundation based in New Ulm, Minnesota), the importance of seeking genetic testing, decreasing the stigma around smokers getting lung cancer and more.

Read more about Sturges's story and how possible cancer metastases can be diagnosed in early stages in this feature from our Lung Cancer 2 Special Issue.

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