GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Green Bay’s Daniel Landrie is enjoying the good life these days; hanging out with his wife, playing with their three labs and watching his garden grow. 

“I’ve got some peppers back there, cucumbers, a couple varieties of tomatoes,” Landrie said, pointing to various plants flourishing in his backyard garden.  

Unbeknownst to Landrie, however, something else was growing. It was a small mass in his lung, which doctors discovered incidentally during a heart scan, which his wife insisted he get. 

“I’m glad she did!” Landrie said. “If I would have been on my own, I probably wouldn’t have even thought about it. “ 

The scan showed a small spot on Landrie’s lung, called a nodule. 

“What’s a nodule? It’s a little shadow in the lung that should not be there,” said Dr. Raul Mendoza, a pulmonologist with Aurora BayCare Medical Center. “It could be anything from a scar to cancer.” 

Landrie was health conscious, watching what he ate and exercising regularly. He did have a history, though, of being what he describes as a casual smoker. 

“It kinda scared me,” Landrie admitted. “When you hear anything going on in your lung, it’s pretty scary.” 

Mendoza is spearheading the Nightingale Study for Lung Cancer Risk.  Aurora BayCare is the only northeast Wisconsin hospital taking part in this national study to determine a patient’s risk of developing lung cancer through genetics gathered with a simple a nasal swab. 

“It’s actually easier than the COVID test,” Landrie said.  “Three seconds and it’s over.” 

Mendoza included Landrie in the Nightingale study and the results showed it was highly unlikely the spot on his lung was cancerous.   

“I was low risk, so that was a big relief,” Landrie said.  

Mendoza says there are many factors that go into determining cancer risk, including age as well as the size and location of the lung nodule, but he says having this information helps doctors decide on the appropriate treatment plan and saves patients from going through more invasive testing. 

“I was not certain that an invasive procedure of any kind, like a biopsy, was the first choice,” Mendoza said. “His test showed he was low risk, less than three chances. That confirmed I can wait and see.”  

Mendoza says lung nodules should be taken seriously, but that doesn’t mean patients should panic. He says only one in ten people who have a lung nodule will develop lung cancer, the key is making sure a doctor knows it’s there, so they can monitor any changes.  

“The problem is when people don’t know they have a nodule,” Mendoza explained. “They don’t have any symptoms, then a few years down the road they have symptoms. Well, now it’s too late because now there’s a cancer.” 

Landrie says he’s okay with his odds.   

“Nothing’s a hundred percent,” he acknowledged, “but I’d rather have ninety percent be good.” 

Landrie will get another scan in a few months just to keep a close eye on things, but in the meantime, he plans to enjoy being around for a long time to come.  

“I made it to the retirement,” he chuckled. “Now, I’ve got about 30 years. I gotta spend my money!” 

Left untreated, most lung conditions get worse over time, so the earlier you seek care, the better.  Through lung screenings at Aurora BayCare, Mendoza says they’ve diagnosed ten percent fewer lung cancers at stage four, when they’re incurable, and ten percent more stage one lung cancers that can be cured.  

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