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Listening to Her Angel Helps Slatington Woman Beat Lung Cancer

One day, Joyce Flack got a letter in the mail about a lung cancer screening and made a decision that may have saved her life

Joyce Flack insists there had to be an angel sitting on her shoulder on a summer day in 2022 as she was opening a letter from her health insurance company.

“It was a notice for a lung cancer screening at Lehigh Valley Health Network,” says the 68-year-old Slatington resident. “I had been a smoker off and on for many years. I wasn’t having any health problems, and I felt great. But something told me I should go.”

Today, Flack is grateful for that angel. The CT (computed tomography) scan, done in September 2022, showed something suspicious. Andrea Dally, a certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) with LVPG Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, referred Flack for a biopsy.

Importance of lung screenings

“It came back as an early stage adenocarcinoma (cancer that starts in the glands inside an organ) in the lower part of my right lung,” Flack says. “But Andrea reassured me by saying if you have to have cancer, this is the one you would want – slow growing in its early stages.”

Dally has seen lung cancer screenings render similar results many times and urged anyone with a smoking history to get one even if you have no symptoms.

“Not every suspicious finding we see in a scan turns out to be cancer,” Dally says. “But if you have been a smoker or have smoked in the past, you should consider a screening. If you wait until you have symptoms, it can be much more difficult to treat.”

Dally recommends screenings for anyone up to 15 years from the time they stopped smoking. Flack hadn’t smoked for six years prior to her screening.

Flack also is grateful for enlisting cardiothoracic surgeon Richard Chang, MD, with Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute, to take care of her problem. Dr. Chang is one of the leading robotic lung surgery specialists in the U.S., having performed more than 1,200 complex robotic lung operations.

Successful robotic surgery

“Dr. Chang came very highly regarded,” Flack says. “From the moment I met him and his team, I knew I was in good hands. I didn’t know very much about robotic surgery, but I certainly trusted him. I just wanted the cancer gone.”

Flack had the surgery on Jan. 23, 2023, her birthday. The surgery went so well, she had no need for chemotherapy or radiation afterward.

“It was a standard lobectomy, which is resecting the portion of the lung where the cancer exists, plus removing surrounding lymph nodes which are potential sources of the cancer,” Dr. Chang says.

“Doing the surgery robotically results in less pain after surgery, less recovery time, and a quicker return to normal life activities. Catching the cancer so early through screening certainly made a difference for Joyce.”

Dally says Flack’s case will be followed for five years to make sure all remains well. But Flack has been back to her normal activities for some time, including her daily yoga practice, pool aerobics, and gardening. She’s also an active member of a book club, plays Mahjongg, and enjoys weekly visits with her 91-year-old father.

“I tell everybody about the importance of cancer screenings, for any kind of cancer,” Flack says. “My mother died of ovarian cancer two years before all this happened. I believe she was that angel on my shoulder the day I made the decision to get screened.”

Lung Cancer Screening

Lung cancer screenings help us catch the early signs of lung cancer (lung nodules) using a safe, low-dose imaging test. Our nationally recognized program offers more of the services you need in one program, including support to quit smoking and access to experienced lung cancer specialists.

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