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Customized Endoscopic Surgery Saves the Lungs of Lifetime Smoker

Mario learned how to smoke when he was 12. For the next 62 years, he smoked as many as four packs a day, until a persistent cough made him abruptly kick the habit.

Shortly after quitting, he participated in a pilot program at Memorial Healthcare System that offered CT lung scans to current and former smokers whose lifetime tobacco usage put them at high risk for lung cancer. Ironically, the scan revealed that the reformed smoker already had a tumor in his left lung, and a subsequent PET scan showed activity in the tumor that indicated it was cancerous.

Now an important question remained: Had the cancer spread to nearby lymph nodes?

To find out, thoracic oncology surgeon Mark Block, MD, obtained a biopsy—not by performing conventional surgery, but by doing a relatively new, minimally invasive procedure called an endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS).

Once he determined that the lymph nodes were non-cancerous, Dr. Block believed that Mario may be a good candidate for yet another minimally invasive procedure: video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). At the start of this procedure, the surgeon inserts a thin tube equipped with a video camera through a small incision between the patient's ribs. This allows the surgeon to see directly inside the chest and, in many cases, remove lung tumors through incisions that are smaller than the ones demanded by conventional surgery.

"Mario was a high-risk patient who had previously undergone a coronary bypass, so the minimally invasive approach was the most prudent way to begin surgery," explained Dr. Block, who is on the medical staff of Memorial Regional Hospital, Memorial Regional Hospital South, Memorial Hospital West and Memorial Hospital Pembroke. "When the camera revealed a significant amount of scar tissue around his coronary artery graft, I was able to customize the remainder of the operation in such a way that I could remove the cancerous lung tissue without causing injury to the delicate graft."

Broward's Most Comprehensive Lung Cancer Program

For Mario and many other lung cancer patients, Memorial's emphasis on minimally invasive technology has resulted in earlier diagnosis, more accurate cancer staging, reduced pain and improved outcomes.

Now 75 years old and in remission from cancer, the feisty Mario hopes that other smokers will follow his example by quitting and seeing a doctor about their cancer risk.

"If I can do it, anybody can," he said.

For more information about Memorial Cancer Institute, call us today. Please telephone our Memorial Regional Hospital location at (954) 265-3443 or our Memorial Hospital West location at
(954) 844-6868.


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