Her primary care doctor suggested abdominal and chest X-rays to rule out any obvious causes of the stomach pain. What they found was a shock to Broering and her family: a mass in her left lung.
“I’ve never smoked, I have always eaten healthy, I exercise regularly … lung cancer wasn’t even on my radar,” recalls Broering, who was diagnosed with stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer in May 2011.
There are two basic categories of lung cancer—non-small cell lung cancer and small-cell lung cancer, which are categorized based on which lung cells are affected and how they appear under a microscope.
Non-small cell is the most common form of lung cancer and typically grows more slowly than small-cell lung cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that more than 226,000 men and women will be diagnosed with lung or bronchial tube cancer in 2012, with up to 90 percent of lung cancer diagnoses being made in current or former cigarette smokers. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death among both men and women.
On the advice of her son—then in medical school—Broering traveled to the University of Kentucky in June 2011 to have lung cancer surgery where surgeons performed two procedures that resulted in the removal of her entire left lung. The cancer had invaded the thin membrane (pleura) around her lung. Two months after her surgery, follow-up imaging revealed that the cancer had metastasized to her bones. She would need radiation therapy to address the metastasis, followed by medical therapy to combat any residual cancer cells in her body.
“I knew treatment would be ongoing, so I wanted to be close to home,” says Broering, a resident Monfort Heights in Cincinnati. She chose to complete her radiation treatment at the UC Cancer Institute with Kevin Redmond, MD, a UC Health radiation oncologist and associate professor at the UC College of Medicine.
After completing radiation, Redmond referred her to John Morris, MD, a UC Health medical oncologist who specializes in lung cancer and is also a professor at the UC College of Medicine. He recommended treatment with erlotinib (marketed at Tarceva), one in a class of drugs known as kinase inhibitors thought to work by blocking the action of an abnormal protein that signals cancer cells to multiply. The drug is recommended for patients with non-small cell lung cancers that have a specific genetic mutation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).
“This therapy targets only cells with a very specific molecular signature, so it spares the good white blood cells and reduces side effects typically associated with traditional chemotherapy,” says Morris.
Broering has been on erlotinib, with her cancer staying in remission, since November 2011. She says her entire UC Cancer Institute team has been “wonderful.”
“Dr. Morris told me to think of him as the quarterback of my football team … he would coordinate my care with all the other doctors,” says Broering. “He has a wonderful bedside manner and always takes the time to answer my questions. He’s provided support to both me and my family throughout this process.”
Broering says she maintains a good quality of life. She is focused on staying strong through exercise and on spending time with her husband and six children.
“God is and has been with me throughout this process and He connected me with a great team of people—doctors, friends, family—to support me through this,” she adds.
Patient Info:To learn more about the UC Cancer Institute Lung Cancer Program and team, visit uccancer.com/lungcancer.