Nadine Cochran's Story

Nadine CochranWhen Nadine Cochran had a CT scan for a gastrointestinal condition called diverticulitis, she had no idea she would end up at National Jewish Health where doctors would work together to save her life.

The CT scan caught an image of the bottom of her lung. Nadine’s physicians noticed something abnormal in her lung and recommended that she get it checked.

Nadine’s primary care physician ordered a scan of her lungs and referred her to National Jewish Health, where she saw Donald R. Rollins, MD, a pulmonologist in the department of medicine.

“We looked at the scan together, and he said, ‘This looks like cancer,’” recalled Nadine.

Dr. Rollins put Nadine at ease when he explained that her cancer could be treated with a surgery called a lobectomy, where they remove a portion of the lung. He referred her to the Lung Cancer Center at National Jewish Health.

“Dr. Rollins is the reason I was able to maintain harmony throughout the ordeal,” said Nadine.

Jeffrey Kern, MD, chief of the division of oncology and director of the Lung Cancer Center, and Laurie L. Carr, MD, an oncologist, led her care.

“The doctors were wonderful,” said Nadine. “They took a lot of time to explain the type of cancer I had.”

Nadine was diagnosed with stage IIB adenocarcinoma, a non-small cell lung cancer that is the most common type of lung cancer, affecting 85 percent of all lung cancer patients.

Dr. Kern recommended surgical removal of the cancer, and coordinated the surgery with John D. Mitchell, MD, chief of thoracic surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital. Dr. Mitchell consults the with National Jewish Health Lung Cancer Center and collaborated with the physicians on her care.  A month after her diagnosis, Nadine underwent surgery to remove the lower lobe of her right lung.

Nadine also underwent four rounds of chemotherapy after the surgery in the Chemotherapy Infusion Suite at National Jewish Health.

“It was such a warm and friendly place, and everyone had such a great attitude,” said Nadine.

Today, Nadine is cancer free and will have periodic screenings for the next five years to monitor her health.

“I never had any symptoms, and I was never sick,” said Nadine. “Had it not been for the diverticulitis, I would have died of stage 4 lung cancer.”

Nadine was fortunate that the cancer was caught early. Because most patients do not have symptoms until the disease has progressed, most cases of lung cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage with a much lower chance of a cure. Because of this, only 15 percent of patients survive five years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. But, as in Nadine’s case, with early diagnosis lung cancer is eminently treatable and curable.

In the past year, researchers have made important strides to improve detection of lung cancer. National Jewish Health faculty members James Jett, MD, and David Lynch, MD, reported the results of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), which found that screening high-risk patients with low-dose CT scans can reduce lung-cancer deaths by 20 percent.

Because many National Jewish Health patients fall into that high-risk pool, the institution recently launched a lung cancer screening program for them. For more information on the screening program, call 303.398.1355.

Dr. Jett is building on this research with a new clinical trial aimed at refining and improving lung-cancer screening by combining the EarlyCDT-Lung blood test with CT imaging to detect disease earlier and more effectively.

“We have learned that CT screening of high-risk patients can reduce lung-cancer deaths. But we need to enhance screening to detect a greater number of early-stage lung cancers. That is the patient’s best chance of a cure,” said Dr. Jett. “Combining CT screening with biomarker tests, such as the EarlyCDT-Lung, may help us detect more lung cancers at an earlier stage while reducing the number of biopsies or operations performed for non-cancerous abnormalities.”

The trial will screen 1,600 participants over four years. For more information, call 303.398.1911.

More about our lung-cancer screening trials