2016-17 Cancer Network Annual Report

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Charles Hoffman

Expert care helps Charles Hoffman defeat lung cancer fast

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital catches cancer early with lung cancer screenings

When Charles Hoffman went to see his doctor for a routine checkup, he felt fine. Weeks later, however, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

“Dr. Laura Howard mentioned that I was a candidate for a new lung screening program,” Charles said. “I quit smoking 10 years ago, andI didn’t have any symptoms that concerned me, but I thought, ‘Why not?’ Better safe than sorry.’”

Charles’ CT screening at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville unfortunately showed stage 1 lung cancer.

“I had no pain, no cough, nothing to indicate a problem,” said Charles. “I am so grateful that they were able to spot it so quickly.”

After discovering the tumor, the doctors removed it by lobectomy at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. It took less than a month from diagnosis to surgery. Charles was pleased with the attentiveness of his doctors and staff and the speed of his care.

“The doctors answered every question and made sure we understood our options. I had no fears at all,” he said.

Christopher Willms, M.D., Thoracic Surgery, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital

Dr. Christopher Willms, a thoracic surgeon at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, performed Charles’ minimally- invasive lobectomy. Catching the cancer early meant that Charles didn’t require follow-up radiation or chemotherapy treatments.

“If Charles hadn’t had a CT scan, he could’ve gone for another year or more before having symptoms, and the cancer would’ve spread,” explained Dr. Willms.“Most patients who have lung cancer don’t get diagnosed until they are in the more advanced stages, when the cancer is much more difficult to treat.”

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer has been difficult to catch early in the past because symptoms don’t occur until advanced stages or people attribute their symptoms to colds, allergies or long-term effects of smoking.

Studies have shown a decrease in deaths from lung cancer by 20 percent when screenings catch the disease early. Because the cancer is smaller and in one concentrated area, it can often be removed more easily.

Dr. Howard, Charles’ primary care physician, continues to speak to patients about the screenings during annual checkups:

“It’s so important for patients to come in and get their annual wellness visits,” she said. “It’s a time for us to review what screenings patients are eligible for. That was the case with Charlie, and I’m so glad that his cancer was caught, and he’s doing so well.”