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Beacon cancer patient’s life is saved by routine lung screening, exceptional care

William Kelsick

William Kelsick likes to stay on top of things, and the habit has served him well. In fact, it probably saved his life.

In 2019, just shy of turning 70, William was eligible for a Medicare annual wellness visit, a yearly check-in focused on preventing disease and disability. He was feeling fine, but since he was a long-time smoker, his primary care provider told him during his annual wellness visit that he would qualify for a CT scan of his lungs.

“I wasn’t having any problems,” William said. But a scan seemed like a good idea, so he went ahead with it.

That decision proved critical, as the scan revealed early-stage lung cancer. William returned to Memorial Hospital over several weeks for a series of biopsies.

“The staff on the unit was excellent,” William said, noting how they even offered him breakfast after a particularly early morning appointment.

William’s treatment plan

The biopsies confirmed that William’s cancer had not spread, allowing him to undergo radiation therapy, as recommended by Dr. Samuel McGrath, radiation oncologist, Beacon Medical Group Oncology South Bend.

Dr. Samuel McGrath

Dr. McGrath administered five treatments. “Bill underwent stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy, or SABR, non-invasive technique designed for individuals who are medically inoperable or are disinterested in surgery.”

During each visit, he was positioned in the foam bed for about 15 minutes, ensuring the radiation beam could be directed with great precision. “They make a foam bed that fits your body,” William said.

The only side effect he experienced was mild fatigue after his treatments. The radiation worked, allowing him to return to his normal life, spending time with his family (including six grandchildren, an elderly beagle and a cat), working part-time and tinkering.

After his treatments, William went in for bi-annual scans to ensure the cancer stayed in remission. Last year, a scan revealed a spot that needed attention, prompting Dr. McGrath to perform another round of five radiation therapy treatments.

“Surveillance imaging is critical,” Dr. McGrath said. “While our ability to eradicate disease is very good with this technique, it is not uncommon for new primary lung cancers to develop. Early identification affords individuals multiple treatment options, including further radiation treatment in a different location within the lungs.”

“Don’t be afraid”

William is once again in remission and very grateful to Dr. McGrath and his care team.

“The care team was fantastic,” William said. “I can’t say enough about Dr. McGrath. He doesn’t treat you like a patient; he treats you like a friend. His staff is wonderful, too. His nurses are very friendly, and they all know me by name.”

William urges others not to be afraid of health screenings. After all, without a routine screening, his story might have been much different. “Dr. McGrath gave me five years if I didn’t get treatment,” he said. “Now it’s in remission. He extended my life.”

Beacon Cancer Care

Getting the care you need at a critical time should be easy. From diagnosis through treatment and rehabilitation to ongoing care, we deliver complete cancer care close to home. Beacon Cancer Care is recognized by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer for the highest quality cancer care. Call us and our team will guide you on this journey. We never give up.