For Lise Veilleux, her experience with smoking started when she was 15 years old. Now, at 59 years old and having survived lung cancer, she says she is incredibly grateful for the care she has received from The Elliot.
“Over time, I started to have difficulty breathing. I have COPD, and I was concerned that something else might be happening in my lungs. In 2018, I ended up in the hospital because my breathing was labored. Scans showed that I had nodules in both lungs – the question was if they were cancerous. I started antibiotics and most of the nodules were gone within a month. But one nodule on each lung remained. I knew it was likely much more serious,” said Veilleux.
This is when she first met Curtis Quinn, MD, with Elliot Hospital’s Thoracic Surgery team. “When I first met with Lise, I was very suspicious that the nodules in her lungs were cancerous. Right away, we did a PET scan to determine if they were hot, in fact, they both were, and we found more cancer during the surgery. My main concern with her significant COPD was how would she tolerate the surgery. Using a minimally invasive approach with Robotic Surgery was definitely the way to go. We acted fast to have all of it removed, and she remains cancer free today,” said Dr. Quinn.
Fortunately, Veilleux had only minimal pain after her surgery and could avoid prolonged use of opioids. All of this was possible because Dr. Quinn used a procedure called cryoanalgesia to temporarily numb the nerves around her lungs during surgery. The Elliot is one of only a few hospitals in New Hampshire to offer this technology to help patients recover faster with less pain.
Veilleux says that her cancer journey is one that she shares with her family. She tears up as she remembers her daughter, Angelica, and her son, Christian, waiting for her during surgery, holding each other, feeling scared for their mother. “This isn’t just my story—it’s my family’s story. We all lived through it together,” said Veilleux.
Now, Veilleux has been cancer-free for five years. Her care with The Elliot continues today. Every six months she has a low-dose CT scan to ensure her lungs are still free from cancer. The option of a low-dose CT scan for patients is available with a referral from a provider, including through primary care. Veilleux urges people to consider getting a low-dose scan if they are concerned about their lungs or are at high risk. “If it wasn’t for screenings, I would be dead today,” said Veilleux. “I believe low-dose lung cancer screenings should be available to everyone as a preventative health measure.”
People who are most at risk for lung cancer include those who smoke or have a history of smoking, and who have had long-term exposure to carcinogens such as radon, asbestos, arsenic, and chromium, exposure to second-hand smoke, family history of lung cancer, or history of chronic lung disease. Dr. Quinn said, “I highly recommend that individuals who are at high-risk for lung cancer, or are having symptoms, talk to their doctor about a low-dose CT scan. Radiation from the scan is minimal, making it a safe way to monitor the lungs.” The screening is covered by insurance for qualifying patients or can be paid out of pocket at The Elliot for $165 per screening with a referral.
Today, Veilleux is working full time, and she is feeling good. She enjoys spending time with her daughter and son, which she plans to do for many more years to come.
For more information about The Elliot’s Thoracic Surgery team and low-dose CT lung cancer screening, visit www.ElliotHospital.org/ThoracicSurgery or call 603-663-1833.