It started with a summer cold and accompanying cough, but as her illness worsened to include a fever and night sweats, Beverly McDougall, 67, decided to visit her family doctor.
Beverly was not a smoker, and her cough was not responding to antibiotics, so her doctor ordered a chest X-ray to investigate the issue. The X-ray showed non-specific opacity (a cloudy area of unknown cause) in the lower lobe of Beverly’s left lung. That discovery compelled the doctor to send her to the Emergency Department of MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center for further evaluation.
Beverly was examined by a pulmonary and critical care physician who supplemented her X-ray with a computed tomography (CT) scan. When it was noticed that the lymph nodes in the mediastinum (the space between the lungs) were more prominent, a CT-guided biopsy was ordered and malignant cells were found. Further diagnostics were needed, so pulmonologist, Dr. Samarjit Singh, performed an endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) to help biopsy the lymph nodes in the mediastinum. During the minimally invasive procedure, a thin, flexible bronchoscope was fitted with an ultrasound device and guided through Beverly’s mouth and trachea (windpipe), thus allowing doctors to examine her airways, blood vessels, lungs and lymph nodes in real time. Using a fine-gauge aspiration needle, tissue samples were obtained from a number of lymph nodes.
The samples proved to be benign, which helped identify the cancer as Stage IB, an early-stage malignancy. Beverly was scheduled for video-assisted surgery in November 2017 and was able to return to her office job just two weeks after surgery. By the end of December, she was strong enough to begin targeted chemotherapy.
“Beverly’s case demonstrates that lung cancer may occur in individuals that are non-smokers. Thanks to Dr. Singh and the EBUS, we were able to accurately identify the stage of cancer and treat Beverly before it progressed,” says Robin Philips, R.N., B.S.N., M.S.N., P.H.N.
Just over a year has passed since Beverly’s symptoms first appeared. She’s well and in remission, followed closely by her doctors at Orange Coast Medical Center.