Surprise cancer diagnosis for trauma surgeon's wife - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Surprise cancer diagnosis for trauma surgeon's wife

(Source: Raycom) (Source: Raycom)

Marti Najjar had a sweet surprise from her husband a while back.

"My husband surprised me for my birthday a year and a half ago to go to Park City, Utah, to go snow skiing," Najjar said. "And I am a terrible skier. So on the last day, we were going down the slope and I took a very hard fall. And when I fell, my husband felt like I maybe punctured a lung, broke a rib."

A trip to the hospital meant a CT scan, and while doctors said she was fine, her husband didn't buy it.

"But my husband, who is a trauma surgeon here, was very persistent and [had] the tenacity to look at the film that they gave us... He saw a suspicious area on my left lung."

The scans came back to Huntsville Hospital, and a consultation led to a diagnosis of lung cancer.

As a non-smoker, Marti did not fit the bill.

Dr. Jim McCarty is a radiation Oncologist at the Center for Cancer Care.  

"80 percent of cancers are seen in smokers," said Dr. McCarty, "but obviously that leaves 20 percent that are in nonsmokers or never-smokers, and she fits into that category."

Najjar says she was very surprised at the diagnosis.

"For me, it was a very early stage... Adenocarcinoma," she said.

She says the majority of her left lung was surgically removed, and she follows up with CT scans every three months.

McCarty says not all lung cancer patients are smokers, and not all are diagnosed early enough.

"The screenings have been one of the better advances we've made in lung cancer care over the last several years, and then some.  Unfortunately lung cancers get diagnosed at an advanced stage and survival in those situations is low, often less than five percent," he said.

Dr. McCarty says the low cost screenings offered in many communities mean an increase in survival rates by 20 percent. But, he says,  you must qualify.  

"Its for folks age 55 to 75 who have what we call a "30 pack" year history of smoking or more.  So the way you determine that is if you've smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or 2 packs of cigarettes a day for 15 years," he said.

The idea is to catch it early. Najjar realizes her diagnosis came on a fluke.  

"I am very blessed. I am very, very lucky," she said.

To make sure you don't become a cancer statistic, take advantage of any type of low cost cancer screening they have in your community.

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