Adena Health Focus November 26, 2018

50 Year Smoker Shares Why She Wishes She Had Never Started

Nina French remembers smoking her first cigarette at the young age of only 16. “I would sneak around and steal cigarettes from my mother’s purse because back then it was the cool thing to do,” she said. 

Today, she has a different outlook on smoking. The 68-year-old Chillicothe resident was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer in June of 2018.“I was going to have surgery and I was diagnosed with anemia,” she explained. “To help get my levels up to where I could undergo surgery, my doctor advised me to see a Hematologist at the Adena Cancer Center. During my first visit the doctor asked me if I was a smoker and suggested I get a lung cancer screening.” 

The no cost lung cancer screening provides a simple, painless, low dose, non-invasive CT scan for people at high risk for lung cancer and identifies tumors or lesions, which may need medical attention.

Nina’s lung cancer screening results came back showing Stage 3 cancer. “The results were not a shock to me, as I knew the risks of smoking. However, I never wanted to know or face the reality that I could possibly have cancer. I am very grateful for the lung cancer screening program and all the Adena Cancer Center staff,” she said. “It was a godsend and didn’t cost me a penny.”

Nina is not only grateful for finding out she had cancer when she did, but also for the time Adena has given her to spend with her 15 grandchildren. “If it weren’t for the screening, I would still be smoking and could even be dead.”  

Entering its fifth year, Adena Health System’s free lung cancer screening program has become a national model for excellence. Since it began in Nov. 2014, 55 people have been diagnosed with lung cancer. 

“A lot of my friends who smoke, say they rather not know because finding out results can be scary,” explained Nina. “I want my story to be an example to others and encourage my friends and family to stop smoking and get screened.”

According to Adena Radiation Oncologist Dr. Greg Thompson quitting smoking helps decrease you risk of lung cancer, but it is better to not start smoking at all.  

“We have known for decades now that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and yet people still do it,” said Dr. Thompson. “The goal of the screening is to prevent more people from dying by catching cancer in the early stages when it is more treatable. In most cases people will not have any symptoms of lung cancer, especially in the early stages, therefore making it harder to detect and treat.”

Candidates for Adena’s free lung cancer screening include: 

  • Between the ages of 55-74
  • Quit smoking fewer than 15 years ago and 
  • Have 30 “pack years” of smoking in their recent or distant past. A “pack year” is calculated by taking the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day and multiplying it by the number of years the person smoked. Therefore, a two-pack a day smoker, who smoked for 15 years is considered a 30-pack year smoker and should be tested.

 According to Dr. Thompson, Nina is now in “surveillance mode”, where her last CT scan showed her lymph nodes were no longer affected by cancer and her tumor was shrinking. She will continue to take a maintenance drug for a year in hopes to soon be cancer free. 

If you or a loved one falls into this recommended group, please consider setting up a lung cancer screening. Like a mammogram, people in this group are recommended to have a lung screen each year for the greatest chance of survivalin the event of a lung cancer diagnosis. 

To schedule a free lung cancer screening with Adena, call 740-542-LUNG (5864). 

To find out if you are at risk, visit adena.org/findout.