More young and middle-aged women are being diagnosed with lung cancer, now at an even higher rate than men, and Palatine resident Mandy Warford is one of them.
“It started as a cough, a sinus infection or a cold,” Warford said.
When Warford’s cough persisted for a year, he went to see his primary care doctor last November and was diagnosed with acid reflux. When the medication didn’t work, Warford had a chest X-ray.
“That’s when the fluids started to appear. So that’s when they switched from acid reflux medications to antibiotics for pneumonia,” Warford said.
That didn’t stop his cough either. Finally, a PET scan found the source: lung cancer.
“The primary one was lung cancer, and they call it stage four because it had spread,” Warford said.
“So the cancer has spread to the liver, to other lungs, to some lymph nodes and to the bone,” said Dr. Dennis Chan, a Warford radiation oncologist at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.
Additional MRI testing found that the cancer had also spread to his brain.
“The MRI showed that there were five spots growing in the brain. That was the surprise,” Warford said.
Warford, who was 41 at the time and a non-smoker, was stunned, but Chan said new research shows Warford is not alone.
“There is a higher incidence of young women in the 35-55 age group who are increasingly being diagnosed compared to their male counterparts,” Chan said.
Dr. Chan recommended targeted therapy that involves Warford taking eight pills a day.
“This therapy is absolutely working. It has had a spectacular response,” Chan said.
Six months after starting treatment, a new PET scan showed surprising results.
“The cancer that spread to the liver, other parts of the lung and bone that activity is no longer present. The liver appears normal,” Chan said.
While targeted therapy worked on most tumors, one brain tumor needed another tactic, called CyberKnife.
“It is a type of radiation. And it is very different from traditional radiation because,
For Mandy, we were only able to give her a treatment in 20 minutes,” Chan said.
“We’ll find out if it worked around mid-December,” Warford said.
Warford, a frequent traveler, tries to hope for many more trips in the future.
“The fourth stage does not disappear. Wait this, there is no evidence of illness. And I hope to have it for years,” Warford said.