HealthWatch: Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Health Watch

November is lung cancer awareness month. According to the CDC, more people in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer for both men and women.

Aurora BayCare Medical Center treats lung cancer patients using a team approach.

Gene Gawryleski feels very lucky, “Oh, I feel very lucky to be alive.”

In July, Gene was having a CT scan for possible heart problems- when it showed something unexpected.

“They caught the bottom of my lung and there was (sic) a spot,” said Gene Gawryleski, Aurora BayCare Medical Center patient.

So Gene was sent to pulmonary physician Dr. Raul Mendoza-Ayala at the Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Clinic at Aurora BayCare Medical Center where they treat lung cancer with a team approach.

“We have a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, the surgeon, the radiologist, the lung specialist and we discuss the case together and again we discuss staging, well diagnosis, staging, and the best treatment,” explained Raul Mendoza-Ayala, MD, Aurora BayCare Medical Center.

Meaning the patient gets to see all the specialists he needs in one visit at the same time and location.

“It was easy for me, I didn’t have to run around go to this doctor, that doctor,” said Gene.

The team decided Dr. Mendoza-Ayala would perform a minimally invasive bronchoscopy which uses a flexible scope with a camera that goes through the mouth down the windpipe.

“And then go into the target area as demonstrated on the CT scan and then from the inside we take biopsies,” explained Dr. Mendoza-Ayala.

And after a follow-up needle biopsy, Gene was diagnosed with stage one lung cancer.

“You hear the word cancer you’ll straighten up in your chair,” said Gene.

Because of other health issues, the team decided Gene’s best treatment would be to forgo surgery and be treated with five sessions of radiation using stereotactic body radiation therapy.

“It is pinpoint radiation to the tumor that treats it and effectively cures it. It leaves the rest of the lung or surrounding tissue healthy,” said Meghan McHugh, RN, BSN, OCN, lung cancer nurse navigator, Aurora BayCare Medical Center.

“No pain during the procedure,” said Gene.

The earlier you catch lung cancer, the better the prognosis. However, lung cancer does not give any symptoms until it is advanced, “and unfortunately, stage 4 is incurable,” explained Dr. Mendoza-Ayala.

Which is why Dr. Mendoza-Ayala says those over 55 who are high risk, smoked or have a family history should get lung cancer screening.

“And doing an annual scan with a very low dose of radiation CT scan we can detect early on spots in the lung and that can potentially save lives,” explained Dr. Mendoza-Ayala.

Right now, Gene’s treatment is complete.

“We will have to wait a few months to see how he responds to his treatment,” said Dr. Mendoza-Ayala.

“They’re telling me it’s going to work and I believe them,” said Gene.

Dr. Mendoza-Ayala says the best way to prevent lung cancer is don’t smoke or if you do, quit smoking.

To learn more you can call AuroraBayCare at 866-938-0035 or email

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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