On the Lookout: How Preventative Care Leads to Cure

When Brigitte Ducote first made the decision to get a lung cancer screening at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center in 2013, she never could have predicted that it would save her life just a short seven years later.

Brigitte DucotePreviously a heavy smoker for many years, Brigitte finally quit in 2010. However, she knew she could still be at a higher risk for lung cancer, especially since the disease runs in her family. The scan detected a small spot. Together, Brigitte and her doctor determined that she would continue to return annually for lung screenings in order to monitor the nodule, as removal was not yet necessary.

“Everybody was so kind from the moment I walked in. They listened to my concerns and explained the entire process to me,” says Brigitte.

Brigitte went back to the Cancer Center each year for a painless, low-dose CT scan. In 2018, the nodule had grown enough for her care team to order a PET scan, which revealed that it was not yet cancerous. Still, they continued to keep a close eye on it.

By 2020, the nodule showed further growth, and although Brigitte was not yet experiencing cancer symptoms, she and her doctor determined that it was time to remove the tumor with a minor operation to ensure that it did not spread.

Dr. Cassidy Thoracic surgeon Dr. Emily Cassidy performed robotic surgery on Brigitte, and she was able to return to her home in Port Allen by the fourth day after surgery. By the tenth day, she was back to riding her bike. While she was apprehensive about a painful recovery, Brigitte was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which she was able to return to her daily routine.

“I had every bit of faith in them. I did not suffer any pain as a patient, and I just want other people to realize that you don’t have to,” she says. “Preventative screenings are available, and it wasn’t expensive.”

The tumor Brigitte’s doctors removed was determined to be Adenocarcinoma, a common form of cancer that starts in mucus-secreting glands found within the lining of the organs.

Thanks to the leading-edge early detection and surgery at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, she was able to hear those two magic words that patients dream of: “You’re cured.” For Brigitte, early detection made survival possible, and more importantly, painless. Without the screening, she would not have known about the tumor until it had progressed enough for symptoms to start appearing.

Today, at 61 years old, Brigitte stays active by swimming and running regularly, and loves to spend time with family and travel with her husband as much as possible.

“Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate for cancer in the country,” says Dr. Cassidy. “With most lung cancers being asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) at early stages, the only way to identify it is through screening. Research shows a 20 percent decrease in lung cancer deaths through detection of the disease before it has advanced. Brigitte’s experience is a wonderful testimonial in that being proactive about your health can save your life.”

Click here to learn more about lung cancer screenings available at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center.