Gina Wiener and her husband were heavy smokers for 30 years. It took them another decade to finally quit.
“I was in the Army for 10 years; everyone smoked,” said Gina. “Quitting was a long and difficult process, but I finally stopped for good in 2011.”
Because of her history, her primary care physician recommended a lung cancer screening at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.
“As an ex-smoker, there’s obviously a fear of lung cancer. You want to know, but you also don’t want to know,” she admitted. “So, my husband and I decided we’d do the screening together. And afterward, there was a feeling of relief that we were moving forward.”
The results of her husband’s screening were clear, but there were two nodules on Gina’s lung. Dr. Axel Joob, thoracic surgeon, decided to monitor her for six months.
“After six months, I had a second scan, which showed the nodules had grown in size. Dr. Joob recommended surgery. It was scary, but he was fantastic. He gave me the sense that everything would be okay.”
Gina underwent minimally invasive robotic surgery and had one of her lower lobes removed. After the procedure, she found out the nodules were actually the beginning stages of cancer.
“I was afraid. Nobody wants to hear that diagnosis,” she said. “But I feel great now, and I go in for yearly scans. I hope all continues to be well.”
Spreading the word
Gina is now a vocal advocate for lung cancer screening.
“I work with a lot of men who are ex-smokers, and I give them informational brochures and encourage them to go,” she shared. “There aren’t any nerve endings in your lungs, so oftentimes you don’t know anything is wrong until it’s too late. I lost two friends to lung cancer.”
Early detection is key. When lung cancer is found late, it’s often inoperable.
“I’m just so grateful my doctor brought it up and my husband and I were able to get the screening. I might not be here today if I hadn’t had it.”
You can help ensure patients like Gina and her husband have access to lung cancer screening. To support the lung cancer screening program at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, click here.