Don Pannacciulli quit his 30-year smoking habit back in 1998. So, when a good friend urged the 66-year-old Watchung resident to also take advantage of a free high-risk lung cancer screening at the lung cancer institute at Saint Barnabas medical center, he resisted at first. He eventually agreed after his friend and his wife, Karen, continued to encourage him to get screened. After all, the sales executive and 9/11 survivor felt great! Pannacciulli went along with the screening, thinking it would be another "check mark for good health."
After his eligibility was confirmed through a phone screening interview with nurse navigator Bridget Saggese, R.N., Pannacciulli underwent a low-dose CT (computed tomography) screening, which revealed some good news and some not-so-good news. While his lung scan tested clear, there was an incidental finding of a 1.8-centimeter mass in his thyroid. Based on these results, Pannacciulli was referred to an endocrinologist for a CT-guided biopsy. "When I received a message that the doctor wanted to see me right away, I knew something was wrong," he says. The CT-guided biopsy determined that the mass was thyroid cancer. Pannacciulli underwent a thyroidectomy, which confirmed early-stage cancer, and complete resection of the mass performed by Bryant Lee, M.D., chair of Saint Barnabas Medical Center Department of Otolaryngology, followed by radiation therapy.
"The free lung screening program saved my life—I'm lucky the cancer was caught early," says Pannacciulli. "I'm on a mission to encourage others to get screened. If the test is negative, you have peace of mind. But if it's positive, you're able to catch and treat the disease earlier."
"Our free lung screening program is an effort to facilitate the early diagnosis and treatment for lung cancer," says Saggese. "Until just recently, people haven't been routinely screened for lung cancer as they have for breast cancer and colon cancer—even though lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. Typically, lung cancer isn't diagnosed until the later stages, so early screening can be a matter of life and death. Through our screenings, we're finding patients who don't show symptoms are being diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer, as well as incidental diagnoses as in don's case." After this life-changing experience, Pannacciulli is taking better care of himself and says he feels "terrific."
Free high-risk lung cancer screening at Saint Barnabas Medical Center
Smokers or former smokers may be eligible for a cancer screening program designed to identify lung cancer at an early stage. Saint Barnabas Medical Center has joined the international early lung cancer action program to offer this free, potentially life-saving test to identify lung cancer early. The program includes a low-dose CT (computed tomography) screening for individuals who are at high-risk for developing lung cancer.
Eligible participants include:
- Current or former smokers between ages 55 and 74 with a history of 30 pack-years or more. (A pack-year is the number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years. For example, 1 pack per day for 30 years equals 30 pack-years.)
- People ages 50 and older with a 20 pack-year smoking history and one of the following:
- exposure to radon, asbestos, silica, diesel fumes, chromium or nickel
- personal history of prior lymphoma or smoking- related malignancies such as head and neck cancer, bladder or esophageal cancer
- family history of lung cancer
- Diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis.
- In high-risk individuals, lung cancer deaths drop by 20 percent when detection by low-dose spiral CT scan is compared with chest X-ray for early detection. The scan only takes a few minutes and could save your life.
For More Information
Please call 973.322.6644 to learn more or to make an appointment for this free screening and low-dose CT scan.