By Sara Bondell
Glenn LaBrusciano knows firsthand timing is everything, especially when it comes to cancer and early detection.
He was diagnosed with larynx cancer in 2014 and treated at Moffitt Cancer Center with radiation. But his cancer journey wouldn’t end there. A lingering cold in the summer of 2017 led to a persistent cough, sometimes producing blood.
When LaBrusciano mentioned his symptoms to his head and neck oncologist at a follow-up appointment, he sent LaBrusciano for a lung screening, which is a low-dose CT scan. The scan and follow-up imaging confirmed he had stage 2 lung cancer.
“I was surprised that the cancer could get to my lungs and grow like that in just a few years,” LaBrusciano said.
The good news was the cancer was caught at an early stage, which gave LaBrusciano a good prognosis. “I am so lucky that when doctors caught it, it was a stage 2 and not a stage 4,” he said. “When I tell people the story, I say I am thankful. If doctors hadn’t pushed me to get screened right away, I probably would have put it off.”
LaBrusciano was treated with immunotherapy before having surgery to remove the tumor. He has been cancer free since May 2019 and continues to get scans every few months to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
Lung cancer often has no symptoms, so it’s hard to detect early when there is the best chance for a cure. More than 60% of lung cancers are diagnosed after the disease has spread, leading to worse outcomes for patients. A study presented at the 2018 World Conference on Lung Cancer confirmed lung cancer screening is the right choice for those at risk.
Moffitt’s lung cancer screening program is open to patients considered high risk. You are eligible to be screened if you:
- Are between the ages of 55-80
- Are a current or former smoker with a 30-pack per year history:
- One pack a day for 30 years
- Two packs a day for 15 years
- Three packs a day for 10 years
- Have quit smoking in the past 15 years with a 30-pack per year smoking history
Unfortunately, a large number of at-risk individuals — up to 8 million patients in the country — are not being screened. If you are one of them, LaBrusciano has this advice: “Don’t be foolish. If you have signs of anything or a history of smoking, go for it. It’s not a big deal and it can make a huge difference.”