Early Screening Provides Lifesaving Crucial Catch

Lung cancer patient gives it her all to stop smoking

Bettye Givens, lung cancer survivor, caught her cancer early with a low-dose CT scan.Bettye Givens has a smoking habit that’s 50-plus years old. She knew it was time to shake her habit because the risk of developing lung cancer was weighing on her.

“I’ve been smoking a long time, so I knew I was at risk,” said Bettye, 72, of Kansas City, Missouri. 

During a routine checkup with her physician, Bettye requested a screening for lung cancer. According to the recommended guidelines, she met the screening criteria:

  • 55 to 74 years old 
  • Relatively good health 
  • Smoked a pack a day for 30 years or more 
  • Active smoker or former smoker who quit within the last 15 years 

She was approved for a low-dose CT scan last fall, and said she was dumbfounded at the results. Her CT scan showed suspicious lesions in both lungs. “I was really apprehensive about what that meant. It was early-stage cancer, but it was scary. And, even though I knew it was possible, I couldn’t believe it was really happening,” said Bettye. 

Early catch


Nirmal Veeramachaneni, MD, thoracic surgeon, performed a wedge resection on Bettye’s left lung in January 2017. 

“We were able to perform a lung resection using a single, small and minimally invasive incision on the left side ̶  the lesion on the left turned out to be benign,” said Dr. Veeramachaneni. “A few weeks later, we did a lower lobectomy on the right lung. Pathology results showed that we caught her cancer early ̶  it was stage I non-small cell cancer. No lymph nodes were affected. Her situation was very treatable.” 

While her left side healed quickly, Bettye said surgery on her right side took longer to mend and was more painful, although manageable. 

“I was so blessed it was caught early,” she said. “Even though I will have follow ups for the next five years, I didn’t have to have radiation or chemotherapy. But, Dr. V made me very aware that I’m still at risk for recurrence, especially if I can’t kick my smoking habit.” 

Up for the challenge

Despite her diagnosis and knowing the risks, Bettye said quitting cigarettes is a challenge. “It’s hard!” she said. 

She is in a smoking cessation class and is hopeful she will be able to give up cigarettes soon. 

“I understand I have to quit to live. I have had so many major losses in the past five years, in addition to my cancer diagnosis. Those are things I can’t control. But, I can control the cigarettes. I want to keep playing tennis, volunteering and helping at church. To do these things, I need to quit,” she said. 

Being proactive leads to Crucial Catch

“Few lung cancers present at early stages. They begin to exhibit noticeable symptoms as the cancer progresses and approaches advanced stages. Bettye’s experience demonstrates the advantages of being proactive with low-dose CT scan screenings,” said Dr. Veeramachaneni. “However, these screenings aren’t ideal for everyone. Bettye is vivacious and a fighter. She’s definitely a poster child for early screenings.” 

Bettye said it is an honor to be selected for the Crucial Catch program. “You think you’re invincible, even though you know there’s a strong possibility of having cancer,” she said. “I know it can be far worse, and I’m just relieved that I’m out of the woods for the time being. Dr. V and his staff saved my life, and I know that without that early screening, my years on this planet would have been limited. The care I received was second to none!” 

The Kansas City Chiefs Crucial Catch program invited seven cancer patients to a practice and lunch, where they met Chiefs players and received autographs. “I took a friend of mine with me, and she knew all of the Chiefs players. We had a blast!” she said.

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The power of hope

Jeanne Ackerson was diagnosed with stage IIIB lung cancer and given a 15 percent chance of survival. She enrolled in a clinical trial, and three years later says her decision saved her life.

To learn more about clinical trials, call 913-945-7552 or visit kucancercenter.org/clinicaltrials.