Fortunate Catch Leads to Early Lung Cancer Diagnosis for Branchville, New Jersey Woman

Eileen Bostonian

December 06, 2021

Branchville, New Jersey, resident Eileen Bostonian, 64, lost her parents to heart disease when they were only in their 60s, so she has been diligent about seeing her doctor for yearly checkups. She is also a 12-year breast cancer survivor, so she knows the importance of monitoring her health.

In 2020, when doctors ordered a chest scan to check her heart, they instead discovered concerning spots on Eileen’s lungs. Follow-up CT scans and a biopsy ordered by her pulmonologist showed the spots were small tumors.

Initially, her doctors at Hackensack University Medical Center were concerned that the tumors were a recurrence of her breast cancer or related to the fact that Eileen had been a smoker many years ago. The best way forward to determine the extent and nature of the tumors was surgery. 

Nabil Rizk, M.D., a thoracic surgeon who specializes in treating cancers in the esophagus and lungs, joined Eileen’s care team. “The initial goal of the surgery was to prove whether she had cancer,” Dr. Rizk says. “The most accessible nodule was on her left lower lobe, so we removed that nodule to establish a diagnosis. It ultimately came back as a tumor type called carcinoid, which is a low-grade tumor.”

A Positive Outlook 

This presented a good outlook. “With surgery, this is a treatable problem,” Dr. Rizk says. Scans of Elieen’s tumors, which were located in both the left and right lungs, showed the most problematic were larger ones that were near important structures. After Eileen recovered from the first surgery in October 2020, she was scheduled for additional procedures to address the other nodules.

Fortunately, Eileen was a candidate for robotic surgery, which means less blood loss, faster recovery times and fewer complications when compared to traditional surgery. 

“We had to address the tumors that were relatively large, potentially growing into airways or causing local problems,” Dr. Rizk says. “We went after the first two on the right side and took out her middle lobe of her right lung, where there was a central tumor close to blood supply. The second one was on a portion of the right upper lobe called the posterior segment.”

Cancer Free

That surgery was successful, but Eileen wasn’t quite done yet. “Six months later, they went back on the other side and got the last one removed,” she says. “The tumors were so small, and the doctors said I needed no chemo, no radiation or anything. I was blessed to catch them early.”

During Eileen’s final surgery in March 2021, Dr. Rizk used navigational bronchoscopy—which uses a special tool to examine and treat less-accessible areas of the lungs—to map the tumor in the left lobe. “We robotically identified the nodule on the left upper lobe and ‘inked’ it so we could more easily find it during the subsequent surgery when we removed that one,” Dr. Rizk says. “Effectively, we removed all visible sites of disease in her lungs.”

When COVID protocols allowed, Eileen was able to have visits from her husband, John, and family members to help lift her on her road to recovery. She recalls that each procedure went very smoothly, and she was very impressed with her doctors and medical team. “They were all fantastic,” she says. “When I had the surgeries, I got the same nurse three times checking me in. By the end, I knew her life story.”

Next Steps & Resources:

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.

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