Debbie Cihoski was enjoying the warm, summer weather, wearing sleeveless dresses to work, until a persistent itchy bump under her left armpit wouldn’t let up.
“At first I thought it was a mosquito bite but it wouldn’t go away, eventually I had to put a bandaid on it to cover it up,” explains Debbie who finally decided to go to the dermatologist.
“At first the doctor thought it was a wart but just to be safe, he did a biopsy,” says Debbie who was shocked at the results.
“The lump was actually a cutaneous T- cell lymphoma,” she says. “This led to me having a pet scan which then revealed a spot on my lung, which was stage one lung cancer. If not for that little bump, I never would have known, I had no other symptoms,” says Debbie, who has no family history of lung cancer, is not a smoker and has never worked in a job that may have exposed her to carcinogens.
Debbie was introduced to Dr. Nabil Rizk, thoracic surgeon with the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. “Instead of a treatment of chemotherapy or radiation, Dr. Rizk suggested performing a procedure called a lung segmentectomy,” she says.
Lung segmentectomy is often recommended for early non-small cell lung cancer. This surgery removes the lung disease without removing excess normal lung, thus preserving lung function. It is especially helpful in patients with existing limited lung function, such as those with emphysema, and supports the goal of saving lung tissue in all patients whenever possible.
Advances in technology allow us to use robotics to perform lung segmentectomy, offering minimal incisions and a level of precision that open surgery and even video-assisted surgery do not permit.
“It was the best option for me, I was able to go home right after the procedure and I didn’t even need the pain medication,” says Debbie.
Dr. Rizk says removing the tumor and surrounding lung tissue gives the best chance for cure when the lung cancer is confined to the lungs. In addition to the segmentectomy, there are other options including:
- Wedge Resection: removes a small piece of the lung that contains the tumor
- Lobectomy: removal of an entire lobe of the lung (there are three lobes on the right and two on the left). Most common surgery performed for lung cancer.
- Pneumonectomy: Removal of an entire lung.
“Advances in technology allow us to use robotics to perform lung segmentectomy, offering minimal incisions and a level of precision that open surgery and even video-assisted surgery do not permit. Robot-assisted segmentectomy offers an alternative that is associated with fewer complications and shorter postoperative hospitalization than other techniques which improves the patient’s quality of life,” says Dr. Rizk.
Today, Debbie continues to be monitored but is cancer free.
“During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage everyone to listen to their bodies, if you see something, say something, it’s what saved my life.”