“If we find a small cancer like the one Helen had, we can take it out and a patient is cured,” Dr. Willms says.

Lung cancer screening saves former smoker’s life

Helen Reutlinger Charlottesville Ct Scan Lung Cancer

Helen Reutlinger was a smoker for much of her adult life. Though she kicked the habit more than 20 years ago, she knew her health could have been compromised. So when she saw a newspaper advertisement about lung screenings at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, she made an appointment. Her screening in February 2014 revealed a small spot on her right lung. Doctors biopsied the spot and diagnosed Helen with early stage lung cancer.

Minimally invasive lung surgery

Thoracic surgeon Christopher Willms performed a video-assisted lobectomy, accessing Helen’s chest cavity through small incisions in the side of her chest. He used a special scope with a camera on the tip to navigate through the chest cavity and locate the diseased tissue.

Dr. Willms removed all of the cancerous tissue, and Helen didn’t require chemotherapy or radiation.

Early detection

“If we find a small cancer like the one Helen had, we can take it out and the patient is cured,” Dr. Willms says. “If she hadn't had a CT scan, she could've gone for another year or more before having symptoms, and that cancer would’ve gotten larger and spread. We know that most patients who have lung cancer don't get diagnosed until they are in the more advanced stages, when the cancer is much more difficult to treat. Studies have shown a decrease in deaths from lung cancer by 20 percent when these screenings catch it in the early stage.”


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