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Lung cancer patient, oncologist stress importance of early detection to save lives


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    CREVE COEUR, Missouri (KMOV) — Missourian Lucy Sheppard was first diagnosed with lung cancer nearly five years ago after getting a CT scan where doctors found a nodule.

“He said you’re very lucky that you knew and that you came in early to get it,” Sheppard says. “He told me at the time and showed me what my life expectancy was if I didn’t do it and what my life expectancy was as of right then. I wouldn’t be here today.”

Sheppard says that life expectancy was two and a half years if the cancer hadn’t been caught when it was.

She went into remission after surgery but as she approached her four year anniversary of being cancer-free, she was diagnosed again on March 8.

This diagnosis was stage three lung cancer.

“I thought I would never get cancer again after I had the operation,” Sheppard says.

Sheppard went through chemotherapy and radiation at Siteman Cancer Center’s West County location.

Now Sheppard is encouraging others to get screened to better their chances of survival.

“Some people are blessed with good health and others aren’t,” Sheppard says. “It’s a luck of the draw for a lot of it. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have.”

Sheppard’s doctor, radiation oncologist Dr. Pamela Samson, says there are more lung cancer survivors than ever before.

However, Dr. Samson says not enough high-risk patients are taking advantage of the early screening options.

“Of eligible patients, only about 10 percent in the country are receiving it right now,” Dr. Samson says. “I really encourage people if they have a smoking history or they currently smoke to talk to their primary care doctor about getting this very important scan that we know can detect cancer at earlier stages and be much more treatable.”

Dr. Samson says the lack of awareness around lung cancer screening is a major issue.

For those 45 years old and up who have a history or currently smoke, Dr. Samson says they should get screened annually.

However, anyone can get lung cancer, with or without a history of smoking.

“It’s very, very important to pay attention to symptoms that seem to hang around,” Dr. Samson says. “Coughing, shortness of breath, feeling short of breath when you walk or anything like that, get it evaluated by your physician.”

Sheppard is getting immunotherapy treatment at Siteman every other week for the next year, which is a treatment Dr. Samson tailored to her.

“It was in God’s hands,” Sheppard says. “He knew what was gonna happen and that, I think helped me tremendously through all of it.”

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