Houston, TX

MD Anderson's patient shares her journey of being lung cancer-free after seeking third opinion

Marisol Gallagher

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HOUSTON, TX — MD Anderson Cancer Center’s patient, Fran Sargent, shared her journey to recover from lung cancer. Although she is quite old, she is not discouraged to be free from the disease.

In 2006, she was diagnosed with scleroderma, a chronic condition that occurs when the body makes too much collagen. This condition makes the skin thick and tight, and scars can form on internal organs, including the kidneys, intestines, heart, and especially the lungs. Scar tissue can damage these organs and prevent them from functioning normally.

Having failed a respiratory test several years ago, her doctor was concerned that scleroderma might have attacked her lungs. Through a CT scan, a cancerous tumor was found deeply buried in the tissue for biopsy. Doctors said that Sargent could still live a normal life if her left lung was completely removed.

Fearing the risks, Sargent decided to seek a second opinion from another doctor who turned out to have the same opinion as to the first doctor. Her friend who was recently admitted to MD Anderson convinced her to seek a third and final opinion.

She chose MD Anderson after much deliberation and consideration. She met with a team of MD Anderson specialists led by thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon Jack Roth, M.D., upon her arrival in Houston.

Following a review of Fran's medical records, the team recommended that she undergo a variety of tests, including a CT scan, a PET scan, and an endobronchial ultrasound.

After reviewing the ultrasound images, Roth recommended taking a tissue sample from Sargent's tumor and examining it under a microscope to determine if it was cancer and if so, what the next step should be.

Surprised by the recommendation, Sargent later agreed to the move. The interventional radiologist Joseph Steele, M.D., then took some tissue samples from the different areas of her tumor while she was awake on the operating table.

Based on lab results from Sargent's biopsy, she had non-small cell lung cancer, the most general form of lung cancer. To kill the rest of her tumor after the biopsy, Sargent underwent 10 days of a type of radiation therapy called stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT.

Four years after therapy, Sargent, now at 78, is free from cancer. But she still has follow-up scans every six months at MD Anderson to inspect for signs of recurrence. The doctor from her hometown was surprised as she was able to recover from cancer without having to undergo surgery and her lungs were still intact.

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