Under Armpit Bump Signals Lung Cancer for NJ Woman
October 27, 2023
Debbie Cihoski was enjoying the warm summer weather and wearing sleeveless dresses to work, when she realized a persistent itchy bump under her left armpit wouldn't let up.
“At first, I thought it was a mosquito bite, but it just wouldn’t go away,” Debbie says. “Eventually, I had to put a bandage on it to cover it up, and I finally decided to see a dermatologist. The doctor thought it was a wart, but just to be safe, he did a biopsy.”
The results were shocking.
“The lump was actually a cutaneous T-cell lymphoma,” she says. “This led to a pet scan, which revealed a spot on my lung: stage 1 lung cancer,” she says. “If not for that little bump, I would have never known. I had no other symptoms.”
Debbie, who has no family history of lung cancer, is not a smoker and has never worked a job that may have exposed her to carcinogens.
Lump Segmentectomy Procedure for Stage 1 Lung Cancer
Debbie was introduced to Nabil Rizk, M.D., thoracic surgeon at John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. Instead of chemotherapy or radiation, Dr. Rizk suggested a procedure called lung segmentectomy.
Lung segmentectomy is often recommended for early non-small cell lung cancer. This surgery removes the lung disease without removing excess normal lung. This preserves lung function. It’s especially helpful in patients with existing limited lung function, such as those with emphysema, and it supports the goal of saving lung tissue in all patients whenever possible.
“It was the best option for me,” says Debbie. “I was able to go home right after the procedure, and I didn’t even need the pain medication.”
Other Options for Stage 1 Lung Cancer
Dr. Rizk says removing the tumor and surrounding lung tissue gives the best chance for cure when the cancer is confined to the lungs. In addition to the segmentectomy, there are other options, including:
- Wedge resection: removes a small piece of the lung that contains the tumor.
- Lobectomy: removal of an entire lobe of the lung and most common surgery performed for lung cancer
- Pneumonectomy: removal of an entire lung
“Advances in technology allow us to use robotics to perform lung segmentectomy, offering minimal incisions and a level of precision that open surgery and even video-assisted surgery do not allow,” Dr. Rizk says. “Robot-assisted segmentectomy offers an alternative that is associated with fewer complications and shorter postoperative hospitalization than other techniques, which improves the patient’s quality of life.”
Today, Debbie continues to be monitored but is cancer free and very much looking forward to wearing sleeveless dresses again. “I encourage everyone to listen to their bodies. If you see something, say something; it’s what saved my life,” she says.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source:Nabil Rizk, M.D.
- Make an appointment for a lung cancer screening.
- Learn more about our lung cancer program at Hackensack Meridian Health.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.