Shine a Light on Lung Cancer

November serves as a time to shine a light on celebrating lung cancer survivors and sharing the importance of early detection.

Unity Health is proud to announce being one of the first facilities in the state of Arkansas to offer a new screening, which will be available by the end of the year, for the earlier detection and diagnosis of lung cancer. Designed for people with a high risk for lung cancer between the ages of 55 and 77, in good health and have a history of daily smoking, have stopped smoking within the last 15 years, or have previous exposure to asbestos; are eligible for the screening. A low dose CT scan will be administered to determine lung cancer risk.

“Lung cancer is the number one killer in the U.S. and causes more deaths than any other cancer,” according to Dr. Miguel Aguinaga, MD, a thoracic and vascular surgeon at Unity Health. “It is preventable and stage one is highly treatable. Symptoms are very non-specific and once a patient has them it is likely too late.”

Charles Snyder, better known as “Chuck,” of Quitman, visited his doctor in 2012 to decipher the source of recurring pains in his head and neck. His wife Twilla Snyder knew things were out of the ordinary. “There was something not right,” she said. Their many years together gave her a sense he should seek help.

CT scans revealed a suspicious area in his right lung. After a PET scan and biopsy were performed, Snyder received the news on November 26, 2012, that he did indeed have lung cancer. Not only was this news a shock, but the day also marked Chuck and Twilla’s wedding anniversary. This year they will celebrate 50 years together and they both shared that this experience has strengthened their marriage. “It either makes you or breaks you,” Twilla said. “It made us stronger.”
Chuck now encourages those who could be at risk for lung cancer to act immediately. “Go quickly, because you just don’t know,” he said. “Lung cancer can be there for years and you may not know it. Mine was there for a long time, but I never had a scan done, so I didn't have any idea. I recommend people get screened, and get it done if you even have an inkling that something is wrong, or if you’ve been a smoker, been exposed to asbestos or have a family history.”

In late December of 2012, Chuck underwent surgery performed by Dr. Aguinaga, and received the first lobectomy in the state of Arkansas, with the assistance of the daVinci Robotic Surgical System at Unity Health in Searcy. Because there were only four, small incisions in Chuck’s back, his recovery was speedy and successful. “The recovery time was phenomenal,” he said. Dr. Aguinaga’s expertise helped in his case of rapid lung cancer diagnosis, treatment, surgery and recovery, and provides a story of hope for those at risk.

Dr. Aguinaga believes Chuck is a perfect example of lung cancer screening success. His cancer was discovered at a very early stage, was highly curable and he remains cancer free four years later. “The earlier we catch it, the more treatable it is,” Dr. Aguinaga said.

Join the nation and community in honoring lung cancer awareness month and remember cancer survivors like Chuck Snyder. “I count the good days and the bad days as part of the experience. God doesn't promise us tomorrow so we have to live today,” he believes. “We do what we can and he takes care of the rest.”

To learn how to receive the latest lung cancer screening at Unity Health — Searcy Medical Center, please call (501) 278-2863 for more information. Full details and eligibility will be given. To learn more about Lung Cancer Awareness Month and Shine a Light, visit. www.lungcanceralliance.org.