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Steve’s Story: Lung Cancer Remarkably Detected Through Heart Scan

Lung Cancer

Steve Miller, age 71, of Cedar Rapids has been a mild smoker since his days in the army. He explains he has generally felt healthy for most of his life, but learned otherwise when he underwent a preventative screening.

“I was so surprised he decided to have the scan done to begin with,” says Wendy Miller, Steve’s wife. Steve was receiving an annual physical exam with his primary care provider, Todd Butler, MD, UnityPoint Clinic Internal Medicine – Hiawatha, when his nurse asked if he was interested in having a heart scan done. St. Luke’s Heart Scan is a simple, non-invasive test that captures X-ray pictures to identify plaque in coronary arteries and assess heart health. “I figured, why not?” Steve explains, even though he has no history of heart problems.

He underwent a heart scan at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital in September 2018. He’s glad he did for two reasons: first, results showed his heart was healthy; and second, imaging showed two small spots on his left lung.

The visualization of the lungs from a heart scan is not very wide, in fact, it’s remarkable the spots on Steve’s lung were seen at all. He was referred to the lung nodule clinic at UnityPoint Clinic – Multi-Specialty where he saw Pulmonologist Muhammad Anwer, MD.

Steve soon received both a CT scan and PET scan to look for disease in the lung, such as cancer. The same two spots were seen and nothing else. Then, a bronchoscopy was performed at St. Luke’s by Dr. Anwer. Results confirmed early-stage lung cancer, bringing Steve to the Nassif Community Cancer Center.

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Connie Dietiker, RN was Steve’s care coordinator, serving as his point of contact from diagnosis through treatment and beyond. She helped facilitate coordination and timeliness of Steve’s care, offering education, insight and support.

After diagnosis, Steve needed surgery to remove a portion of his lung. The surgery, a left upper lobectomy, was performed by James Levett, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa. Steve needed to regain strength after surgery so Connie connected him with Matt Schmitz, cancer exercise specialist, for physical rehab.

“Every person at the Community Cancer Center was responsive and comforting,” Steve explains, “I feel very fortunate I landed there.”

As a caregiver and retired nurse, Wendy was impressed with Steve’s care, “Everyone on Steve’s care team was very caring and helpful. They always had an answer to my questions and I was confident Steve was in good hands.”

Although the Millers didn’t expect a cancer diagnosis to come from a heart scan, they feel grateful it was caught early and credit Steve’s collaborative care team for his positive outcome. Today, Steve is free of lung cancer, and he and Wendy are enjoying the winter months in Arizona. He will continue with regular PET scans on a six month basis to assess the health of his lungs.

The Nassif Community Cancer Center offers the broadest range of individualized care in the area. From screening and prevention to healing and wellness, patients and their families get all the care they need, on their terms, with a single point of contact. Click here to learn more.


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