WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Some consider lung cancer to be sort-of a death sentence, but when caught early it can be treated.
Michael Baroody of Alexandria, Va. was diagnosed with lung cancer 3 years ago. The tumor was found in a CT scan while he was in the hospital for flu-like symptoms. After his wife Mary heard the news, she did her best to stay positive.
Mary says, "So I went, took a shower, cried, came out and I never believed that he was gonna die from this."
Both Michael and Mary smoked for 38 years, and they quit at the same time 10 years ago.
Michael says, "Not quite soon enough to head off my cancer, but obviously we were glad that we did quit."
He had a lobectomy to remove the part of the lung that had the tumor. Then the attention shifted to Mary, she smoked even more cigarettes than her husband of 46 years.
"3 packs a day, and he said 'please go get a chest x-ray', and I did,' adds Mary.
The Baroody's are both at high risk for developing lung cancer
Dr. Eric Anderson of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital says it's crucial to spread the word about lung cancer screenings.
Dr. Anderson says, "The problem with lung cancer is patients don't have any symptoms until it has advanced outside the chest or it invades into adjacent structures that have nerves."
By then it can be too late. "The importance of doing lung cancer screening is to find these patients who do not have any symptoms and have an early stage lung cancer. Those are the ones potentially curable with surgery," adds Dr. Anderson.
The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends lung cancer screening for patients 55 years of age and older who have at least a 30 pack year history of smoking. That is equal to roughly 30 years of smoking one pack of cigarettes every day. This includes those who either currently smoke or quit smoking within the past 15 years.
Michael Baroody has a 40 pack year history of smoking, and Mary has more than double that number. She has a 105 pack year history of smoking.
In March, the Baroodys got CT scans on the same day, both had positive news. Dr. Anderson saw no new nodules or signs of cancer in Michael since his surgery and Mary showed no signs of cancer, but Mary did have traces of emphysema.
Dr. Anderson says, "Mrs. Baroody is going to be recommended to have a CT scan yearly for the next 2 years."
Michael will be closely monitored for the next 2 years as well before he is considered completely cured of lung cancer.
"I feel blessed, i've been very fortunate that it was caught early, treated effectively, and the scan like the one today continues to show that it is clear," adds Michael.