Paul Tillotson, a smoker, admits he wasn’t great about getting his annual physical. But after some convincing from his wife, the 62-year-old went. He’s glad he did after an X-ray revealed something suspicious and potentially deadly on his lung.
“They did a biopsy of the lung and it turned out to be cancer – stage three lung cancer,” he said.
Kevin Gilmore, 49, is a non-smoker, also diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. He said, like Tillotson, he was also encouraged by his wife to get medical treatment because of a persistent cough. “As the tumor was growing it was pushing on the lining in my chest, and it was causing me to cough,” he said.
“If the patient has coughing, coughing up blood, chest pain, rib pain, that could be a sign,” said Dr. Jose Alemar of Florida Cancer Specialists, who treats both men. The reason why lung cancer is so lethal is because many patients get diagnosed at a later stage.
“There's more people dying of lung cancer than breast, colon, ovarian, prostate all together,” he said.
At stage one the survival rate is 70 percent. Stage two drops to 50 percent.
“Stage three drops down to 16 percent and stage four for the most part is not a curable disease,” he said. “But some patients might be alive in five years. About five percent of them.”
Dr. Alemar said while smoking and exposure to tobacco are the main causes of lung cancer, he points out that your environment can also put you at risk. “Being a firefighter, working in a kitchen, being exposed to fumes,” he said.
“My parents had smoked when I was little, but I tried to stay away from it because I didn't like the smoke,” Gilmore said.
It's been four years since Gilmore's diagnosis and two since Tillotson's. After many treatments of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, they are feeling better and taking life one day at a time.
“It is what it is and if you have it, you can't hide from it. You have to deal with it,” Tillotson said.
Tillotson, who avoided the doctor, now encourages others to get those annual check-ups and to seek treatment right away if they suspect any symptoms of lung cancer. “Time is of the essence,” he said. “The sooner you get a diagnosis, the better your odds are to make it.”
For more information on lung cancer visit https://www.caring4cancer.com/go/lung .