Former smoker beats number one cancer killer after minimally invasive surgery

Lung cancer tops several other cancers combined as the number one cancer killer.

SANDERSVILLE, Ga. (WJBF) – You may not see major fundraisers for it, but one local surgeon told NewsChannel 6 this type of cancer impacts thousands each year.  Take the total population of Augusta and that’s roughly the amount of people who die from lung cancer each year.  For some people, that diagnosis can be fixed and knowing may not cost you a thing.

Kathy Blocker took a drive to Augusta in 2014 and saw something that caught her eye.

“It was on a billboard. It was free. And I knew I had been a long time smoker.”

It was the advertisement that saved her life.

“Due to the fact that I had been smoking for like 30-40 years (I had quit), I decided to check it out. It’s free, go for it,” she said.

Blocker, a 58-year-old mother and grandmother from Sandersville said she lit up her first cigarette at 15. At 53 and up to nearly 2 packs a week, she stopped.

“Then cigarettes went up. When the prices went up I’m like ok. It’s time to quit. I’m not giving up that kind of money.” she explained.

Despite kicking the habit, the free screening showed she developed lung cancer.

“It could be done now and then you don’t have anything to worry about because he can get it all then,” said Blocker after her initial conversation about treatment options.

Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University is where Blocker received treatment.  Lung cancer surgeon Dr. Carsten Schroeder performed minimally invasive surgery on Blocker’s left lung after locating a dime-size tumor near her rib.

He told NewsChannel 6 lung cancer is the number one cancer killer with 160,000 deaths a year.

“If you sum up pancreas, colon, breast. All these together don’t kill as many people as lung cancer.,” Dr. Schroeder showed us.

African-Americans such as Blocker and low-income patients hear lung cancer diagnosis more than anyone else. That’s why Dr. Schroeder wants to stress screening to that group.  Those targeted are people who smoked a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

Blocker was Stage 1. Early detection like hers helps.

“In late stages unfortunately with big tumors, that have spread somewhere already, you barely survive five years,” said Dr. Schroeder who does not perform the same type of surgery when lung cancer has progressed to Stage IV.

Blocker has a 90 percent chance of survival through this next decade. That gives her time to spend with loved ones, but she’s hoping they learn from her life and get lung cancer screening.

“At least go and find out where you standing with them cigarettes. But it would be a nice thing to quit before you get to that point.”

Blocker said a pack of cigarettes jumped from $3 to $6 and that was enough to make her quit.  She now spends that extra cash on her grand kids.

To find out if you qualify for a no cost lung cancer screening, click here or call 706.721.4726.  You can also email lung@augusta.edu.

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