She met again with Baxter, this time in the doctor’s office. And this time, this simple test, which takes less than five minutes to administer, found something: Cancer.
Seiff had surgery on April 18. Baxter removed the upper right lobe of her right lung.
“I came out of the hospital, went to a luncheon that same day, went to get my hair done because that’s what women do,” Seiff said. “My life went on. She took me off oxygen and I haven’t looked back. I’m back to my golf and living my life.”
For Baxter, Seiff’s story is uplifting.
“My hope is we’ll start saving lives,” Baxter said, noting that 250,000 patients were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010, the most current year for statistics from the American Lung Association.
The CT screening is a major breakthrough, doctors say.
“The study was stopped early because patients had such an improvement from CT scans, they thought it was unethical to just offer chest X-rays when they realized CT was so much better,” Baxter said.
The American Lung Association and American Society of Thoracic Surgeons, among others, recommend the test. Most insurance companies aren’t on board yet for the $350, five-minute outpatient test, but the medical community predicts the cost will soon be covered within the next year or so. “Insurance companies figure if we catch it early we can cure you and send you back to your jobs,” Baxter said.
Robotics and GPS
The medical community is also excited about using GPS in patients diagnosed with lung cancer and in working with robots that allow surgeons to reach into previously inaccessible parts of the body.
Jonathan Muniz was, by all accounts, a healthy 16-year old boy. The Coconut Creek High School student had just completed 10th grade and was standing in line with his mom, registering for college-level classes for a dual enrollment program in mid-June, when he started breathing heavily.
His mother took him to his pediatrician who could barely hear him breathe from his right lung. An X-ray in the emergency room at Coral Springs Medical Center revealed a white mass in the lower part of his right lung.
“My heart dropped. My 16-year-old has lung cancer,” Elizabeth Muniz recalled.
Because the tumor was in a tricky spot, surgeons feared he could “bleed out” if traditional means were used to extract the mass. His mother was initially told the cancer was inoperable, she said.
Jonathan was airlifted to Miami Children’s Hospital and spent six days there on an incubator after his lung collapsed. Doctors looked for a surgeon skilled in robotics and found Dr. Mark Dylewski, Baptist Health South Florida’s medical director of robotic surgery.
Dylewski agreed to perform the surgery on a Tuesday at South Miami Hospital and removed the upper part of his right lung. By Friday, Jonathan was able to go home.
“He is breathing just fine, doing his regular activities, walking around,” Muniz said. “You would not think this kid had had major surgery and all he had was three small incisions by his tummy area on his right side. That’s it.2/3 of his lungs by being able to do this surgery.”
Robotics have been used for various medical procedures since the late 1990s but hadn’t been utilized for lung or chest surgery until 2010, Dylewski said.