Gina’s Story: Catching Lung Cancer Early

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Gina meets with medical oncologist Marta Batus, MD, and thoracic surgeon Christopher Seder, MD.

As a lifelong smoker, Gina knew the risks of smoking — but, like many people, she pushed these thoughts out of her mind.

“For years, my very dearest friend and I would sit on the phone together, have coffee and smoke cigarettes,” Gina remembers. “Then she was diagnosed with lung cancer and died from it. Even though I saw what she and her family went through, I was still in denial that anything could happen to me.”

Taking control

Five years ago, at age 70, Gina got a wake-up call to start taking control of her health: She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She had a mastectomy at Rush and was soon cancer-free. With a new lease on life, she began running, cut down to three cigarettes a day, and started listening to shamanic drum chants and doing positive-thinking exercises. She also continued her regular breast cancer follow-ups at Rush with medical oncologist Melody Cobleigh, MD, and nurse practitioner Teri Dougherty, NP.

Still, Gina’s smoking history and age put her at high risk for lung cancer. So at an appointment last summer, Dougherty talked to Gina about her risk factors and suggested that Gina was a good candidate for a lung cancer screening test — a low-dose CT scan that can detect lung cancer at its earliest stages, before symptoms arise and when it may be most curable.

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Helping Patients ‘Take Charge of Their Health’

Proteus is the world’s first digital medicine service, which unlocks never-before-seen insight into patient health patterns and medication treatment effectiveness. While Proteus Discover is FDA-approved, Rush is only one of eight health systems in the world implementing this cutting-edge technology outside the scope of a clinical trial.

Two Rush staff members shared their thoughts about working with the Proteus device, which helps encourage people to take their medication via an ingestible sensor the size of a grain of sand, a wearable sensor patch and a mobile app.

Kerensa Vinson, MSN, RN

vinsonI joined the Proteus implementation team in January of 2017. The implementation team has had the highest acceptance rates seen with other customers leveraging a population health approach to introduce patients to the technology. This experience, paired with critical thinking and problem-solving, has allowed our team to quickly identify improvements to the workflows.

My patients have experienced life-changing results with the Proteus tool. Patients have seen marked improvements in their medication compliance as well as improved or controlled blood pressure. In addition, Proteus has had the unexpected benefit of improving communication between the physicians and the patients.

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Stories From Our Patients

We often hear from patients and their family members who want to thank the doctors, nurses and other staff members for their care at Rush. Click the images to see their stories.

‘Mental Illness Is Not a Normal Part of Aging’

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Sandra Swantek, MD

Sandra Swantek, MD​, has dedicated her career to ensuring quality mental care for older adults. She will be honored for her work when she receives the 2018 American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry Jackson-Siegal Clinician of the Year Award.

In this Q&A, the medical director of Rush’s geriatric psychiatry program tells us about herself and the honor, which she’ll receive in March in Honolulu.

Tell us about your background.

​I’m originally from Detroit. I received my undergraduate degree in communications from Michigan State University, East Lansing Michigan. I worked at a public radio station then a Detroit television station. I transitioned to communications work at a hospital on the east side of Detroit and created a community education program for a young hospice program. I recognized that I enjoyed working in a health care environment, and that I wanted to take on a different role in health care. I eventually realized that I wanted to be a psychiatrist.

I was 10 years out of school by then and not certain that I could do it. I started premed classes on my 30th birthday, all while working a day job. Medical school was both an exciting and terrifying challenge.

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Insurance Doesn’t Guarantee Health Care Access

angela-mossBy Angela Moss, PhD, RN, APRN-BC

Health insurance is a common proxy measurement for access to health care services. That is, if a person has health insurance, they also have access to health care services and time to seek regular visits. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case.

A new Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index shows the number of adults without health insurance is up 3.5 million this year. But those with health insurance also may not have access to doctors, nurses or clinics.

One of those Americans is my patient; I’ll call him Joe. He has worked two full-time jobs for all of his adult life. Joe is 57 years old and regularly works the evening shift six or seven days a week from 2 to 11 p.m. in a distribution factory operating heavy machinery. He then clocks in for his night shift warehouse job at another factory from midnight to 7 a.m.

For nearly 30 years, Joe has had about four hours of sleep a day between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. He smiles proudly and says he supported his family with his tough schedule. He put three kids through college and now all three are independent, successful professionals who are free from college loan debt. He and his wife own their home and two vehicles outright.

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Hearing the Words ‘You Have Lung Cancer’

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Jill Feldman with Philip Bonomi, MD, a medical oncologist at Rush

Lung cancer specialists at Rush are among five worldwide recipients of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s inaugural Cancer Care Team Award. Jill Feldman, a patient at Rush, introduced them at a recent ceremony in Japan. Here’s her story:

When I was 13, I lost two of my grandparents to lung cancer, and six months later my dad died of lung cancer. Then in my 20s, both my mom and close aunt died of lung cancer.

Needless to say I was devastated and felt helpless, so I started doing advocacy work with LUNGevity Foundation, a national lung cancer organization. I also began getting scans every few years. All was good until 2009. I was 39 years old, had four small children and was president of LUNGevity, so there just aren’t words that can describe how I felt when I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the same disease that I literally watched kill both of my parents.

Foreign territory

I have been in and out of treatment for the past 8 1/2 years. Lung cancer will be a lifelong roller coaster ride for me, but because of a better understanding of lung cancer biology, advancements in treatments, and my dedicated, passionate, collaborative care team, the cancer can be managed as a chronic disease, for now.

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Call of Duty: Providing Surgical Care in Combat Zones

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By Tad Gerlinger, MD

My first deployment was to Kosovo with Task Force Falcon, Operation Joint Guardian, in 2001. Three weeks after 9/11, I was deployed from Fort Bragg with the 274th Forward Surgical Team (Airborne) — the first FST sent into Afghanistan — for Operation Enduring Freedom. Two years later, I was part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in the initial actions of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And I returned to Afghanistan in 2011 with the 936th Forward Surgical Team and served with the Norwegian Provincial Reconstruction Team. That was my last deployment.

Targeting civilians

In armed conflict, the vast majority of casualties and injuries are the locals — the civilian population. That was true for the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq back when I served, and it’s true today in countries like Syria. What’s happening in Syria with ISIS, where they’re using human shields, was very common for Al Qaeda, too.

In 2011, our special mission unit went in to get a high value target in northern Afghanistan. After our soldiers surrounded the compound, they asked the enemy to send out all of the noncombatants. As soon as all of the women and children had come out into the courtyard and our soldiers had gone out to secure them to safety, the enemy threw grenades at the entire group. So the majority of the casualties from that mission were women and children — and, of course, our soldiers were injured trying to protect the families of the men who threw the grenades.

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