When Covington resident Billie Jane Hood underwent a routine evaluation for knee replacement surgery at Piedmont Newton Hospital, the last thing she expected to hear was that she had stage IV lung cancer.
“I was never more shocked by anything in my life,” Hood, who is a lifelong nonsmoker, said. “It was a wild roller coaster ride from the first PET scan to being told I had advanced stage lung cancer and then on to more tests. I told my doctor, ‘I still have places to go and things to see.’”
Further testing revealed Hood could benefit from a newer, more targeted form of lung cancer treatment called EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) inhibitors, which can block the growth of cancer cells.
“There are so many new modalities and therapies for the treatment of advanced lung cancer,” Dr. Victoria Afshani, hematologist and oncologist at Piedmont Newton, said. “We no longer are limited to conventional chemotherapeutic drugs although they remain important. We now have treatments targeting specific cancer mutations as well as therapies which harness the immune system to fight the cancer cells.”
As a result of this new treatment, Hood has experienced mild side effects. In February 2015, doctors declared she was in remission and well enough to pursue the knee replacement surgery that led her to discover she had lung cancer.
“It was an accident that my cancer was found,” Hood said. “I have been so blessed to not be sick.”
About 40 percent of lung cancers are adenocarcinomas, the kind of lung cancer Hood has, according to the American Cancer Society. It is one of the most common types of lung cancer seen in nonsmokers. Hood hopes her story will raise awareness and help others recognize their risk of developing the disease.
Other than smoking, known risk factors for lung cancer are contact with radon, contact with asbestos or other cancer-causing agents, family history of lung cancer, diagnoses of certain other cancers and/or lung disease and contact with second-hand smoke. To learn more about lung cancer, visit piedmont.org/lung.
Anne Gantt is the senior communications specialist for Piedmont Newton and can be reached at 678-625-2045.