MedWatch: Lung Cancer Screening

Thursday is the Great American Smokeout

A holiday of sorts, organized by the American Cancer Society, as a day to start the journey toward a smoke free life.

But for many, that’s easier said than done.

One man who did shares his story. We meet him in this month’s MedWatch report.

“Progress, progress, progress. I probably work out 4-5 times a week and 45 minutes. Some days are better than others. I’m up to 2.5 miles a day sometimes,” said Michael Hahnenberg.

These are big steps for Michael Hahnenberg. He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. 

He will never have more than 30 percent lung capacity.

That’ after smoking for much of his life.

“Thought it was cool back then, but it wasn’t cool. My parents smoked in face. My dad passed from lung cancer and that’s when I should have quit, but that was about 14 years ago. Smoked teenage all the way up to 57,” explained Michael.

It took a very personal scare to get Michael to finally kick the habit.

“I actually went to urgent care that first day and they said right away my oxygen levels were really low, so they rushed me to emergency. From emergency they put the breathing tube down my throat, and it was pretty bad. I was on my way out,” said Michael.

He spent eight days in the hospital, and six of them were in intensive care.

It literally changed his life.

“I knew at that time, and then I got out of the hospital and went through programs and maintained, and am now three years smoke free. Over three years and feel healthier than I ever had, except for the breathing part,” explained Michael.

But up until this point, Michael has been lucky. He’s stayed cancer free.

“Lung cancer is the third most common cancer. It’s actually the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. so more people die from lung cancer than from the next three cancers: breast, prostate and colon cancer combined,” explained Dr. Patrick Gartland, M.D.

And there’s a very specific reason for that.

“The majority of lung cancers are diagnosed at a later stage, which contributes to that higher mortality. Doctors have been trying for years to come up with a way to diagnose lung cancer earlier so we can treat it better,” said Dr. Gartland.

That’s why radiologist Patrick Gartland started Munson Medical Center’s Lung Cancer Screening Program in 2015.

There are several facets, from the actual test…

“We realized we could do low dose CTs to the chest where we’re reducing the risks of the radiation but still maintaining the sensitivity to detect early stage lung cancer,” explained Dr. Gartland.

…to trying to get to the root of the problem.

“One of the integral parts of this program is counseling the patients on smoking cessation and having those resources available,” said Dr. Gartland.

While this grandfather has already taken that first step of quitting…

“I don’t want to go away right now. I’ve got kids, grandkids, and someday hope to have great grandkids. I’m going to do what I can to stay alive,” said Michael.

He also plans to get that lung cancer screening, while trying to encourage others who smoke to stop.

“It’s tough because it makes them feel bad. I’m sure they know they want to quit, and I was there. I even have, my children smoke, and lung cancer is hereditary, too. So the other thing I think is my step is to get screened for lung cancer,” said Michael.

If you want to learn more about the screening, or find information on how to quit smoking, there is a Great American Smokeout event Friday at the Cowell Family Cancer Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To learn more about it, click here.

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