Richard McAteer Survives Stage 4 Lung Cancer with Care from the Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute

When Richard McAteer of Easton, started having unusual abdominal symptoms in 2014, he immediately turned to Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) for answers. “I’ve gone there for everything from hernia surgery to getting stents,” he says.

This time proved to be more complicated. Scans revealed enlarged lymph nodes in his upper abdomen. A biopsy indicated he had cancer. However, the type wasn’t clear because no primary tumor site was located.

“It’s rare not to find the primary cancer site, but special staining on the cancer cells showed it was lung cancer,” says oncologist Ranju Gupta, MD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology–Muhlenberg. “I diagnosed it as stage 4 and started him on chemotherapy.”

Extraordinary collaboration

McAteer, then 76 and an active community-development volunteer, chose to receive treatments close to home at LVPG Hematology Oncology at the Health Center at Bangor.

He was encouraged when his lymph nodes started shrinking, but after four chemotherapy rounds he developed side effects. Gupta opted to “think outside the box” and teamed up with radiation oncologist Dennis Sopka, MD, with Allentown Radiation Oncology Associates.

“Stage 4 lung cancers aren’t usually cured,” Sopka says. “But this probably is – there’s no evidence of disease.”

“Normally, we treat stage 4 lung cancer with ongoing chemotherapy, but this was an atypical case,” Sopka says. “We decided to use localized radiation to the lymph nodes instead.” McAteer received 30 radiation treatments and now sees Sopka regularly for computed tomography (CT) scans to check for new cancers.

Powerful bonds of doctor-patient trust

During a checkup in 2016, McAteer mentioned to Sopka he was being treated for squamous cell skin cancer on his hand and scalp (unrelated to his lung cancer). “I suggested he might need radiation on his scalp after surgery to ensure it doesn’t come back,” says Sopka. “He ended up receiving 20 treatments.”

Then in January 2018, Sopka spotted a 6-millimeter nodule in McAteer’s right lung during a routine scan. Fortunately, it turned out to be benign.

“Stage 4 lung cancers aren’t usually cured,” Sopka says. “But this probably is – there’s no evidence of disease.”

McAteer is grateful for LVHN’s expert, personalized care. “I keep going back because I trust my doctors – they saved my life,” he says. “The entire staff supports patients emotionally, from the infusion nurses at Bangor, to people at the front desk, to the helpful cart drivers. Everyone is incredibly attentive. I can’t find an exception to the rule.”

Accepting New Patients

Radiation Oncology
Area of focus
Lung Cancer
Head and Neck Cancers
Breast Cancer
Pediatric Radiation Therapy
LVHN Affiliates
Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute

2545 Schoenersville Road
Radiation Oncology
Bethlehem, PA 18017-7384
United States

1240 S Cedar Crest Blvd, Ground Floor
Dept of Radiation Oncology
Allentown, PA 18103-6218
United States

Make an Appointment
Need help scheduling? Contact Us