A recent study by French researchers suggested that the number of non-smokers and women who are diagnosed with lung cancer is on the rise. Jan Otte, a non-smoker and a patient treated at Piedmont, showed none of the classic signs of lung cancer, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain. Instead, it was back pain that led her to the doctor’s office in the first place.
“I started doing some exercising at my house around the first of August,” says Otte. “After a couple of weeks, my back started hurting. I did the normal over-the-counter medications and it did get better, but it wasn’t well.”
Otte and her husband were preparing for an RV trip that would last several months. A week before they were supposed to leave on their trip, Otte’s husband encouraged her to go to the doctor to have her back examined.
“When I got to the doctor and explained how the pain was radiating across my back, [my physician] wanted me to have a back X-ray. She said as long as she was having a back X-ray, she was going to order a chest X-ray as well,” explains Otte.
When Otte’s doctor got the results, she called and said she was concerned about her chest X-ray.
“She said, ‘We have detected something in the right lobe that has a little irregular shape to it. We really want to follow up on that,’” explains Otte.
A shocking diagnosis
“When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, it was a complete surprise,” she says. “I am a non-smoker, I’ve never smoked and there’s not any kind of cancer in my family.”
Her primary care physician referred her to an oncologist, who told her it appeared she had stage I cancer that was detected very early. While she would need surgery to remove the cancer, her oncologist said she likely would not need chemotherapy or radiation.
She was referred to thoracic surgeon Saeid Khansarinia, M.D., for treatment.
“Dr. Khansarinia was very, very positive about [my prognosis],” says Otte. “He said he felt sure it was detected very early and that I was lucky, because this isn’t usually the case with lung cancer.”
After a successful surgery and recovery, Otte is grateful her cancer was discovered so early.
“When I step back and start thinking about if this hadn’t happened and I didn’t have some sort of back pain that would have taken me to the doctor, I probably wouldn’t have known this for maybe several months. By that time, I’m confident that it would have been in a more advanced stage.”
For more information about lung cancer symptoms and treatment, visit the Piedmont Cancer Center.