Grateful Patient Survives Lung Cancer Due to Early Detection

“UConn is my hospital of choice, and I cannot say enough about Dr. Ibrahim and his team.” - Chris Ambrose

Dr. Omar Ibrahim and his patient Chris Ambrose.

Chris Ambrose says smoking was the worst mistake of his life, but he is grateful that he has survived lung cancer twice because of early detection and screening.

A smoker for over 40 years, his primary care physician initially noticed something on his annual scan and sent him for testing, while it initially looked okay, he was referred to Dr. Omar Ibrahim, director of Thoracic Oncology and Interventional Pulmonology at UConn Health who was able to perform a robotic bronchoscopy on the Monarch platform.

The robotic bronchoscopy on the Monarch Platform, which UConn Health was the first in New England to offer, allows physicians to quickly diagnose lesions detected through low-dose CT scans, including those that are small or in hard-to-reach parts of the lung.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer, though lung cancer can also occur in people who have never smoked. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you’ve smoked. If you quit smoking, even after smoking for many years, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer.

Ibrahim says, “diagnosing the cancer earlier allows for improved surgical management of the disease and increases the chance of survival. When the cancer is detected early, before it has had a chance to spread beyond the lungs, the five-year survival rate jumps from 5 to 56 percent.”

In the early stages of lung cancer, it is curable in many cases by removal through a surgical resection with no need for chemotherapy or radiation and only follow-up of surveillance CT scans. A Computed Tomography scan (CT scan, also called a CAT scan) uses computer-controlled X-rays to create cross-sectional images of the body. The low dose CT scan of the lungs is quick, painless, and involves a minimal amount of radiation exposure.

The cancer was in Ambrose’s left lung, because it was in the middle of the lung, Ibrahim had to remove the entire upper left lung to remove the cancer. He spent twelve days in the hospital following the surgery and was sent home and was fine for three years.

He had his regular scans every six months, and three years later, a growth was found on his right lung on the upper lobe. This time it was close to the outer edge, and  a minimally invasive surgery to resect just a small part of the lung was performed.

Lung cancer typically doesn’t cause signs and symptoms in its earliest stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur when the disease is advanced, which is why screening is so important for early detection.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:
A new cough that doesn’t go away.
Coughing up blood, even a small amount
Shortness of breath
Chest pain
Losing weight without trying
Bone pain

“Knock on wood, it’s been three years since the last surgery and I go every six months for a scan, my next one is this February and I’m hoping for continued good results,” says Ambrose. “UConn is my hospital of choice, and I cannot say enough about Dr. Ibrahim and his team.”

Ibrahim advises, that if you are a smoker -stop, there are several options to help with smoking cessation, be aware of your risk and if you qualify, get your screening every year.

To make an appointment for a lung cancer screening, call UConn Health at 844-777-LUNG to discuss your health history and answer a few questions. A nurse navigator will call you back to discuss your eligibility for the screening test.