Former smoker from Omaha credits CAT scan with saving his life

A former smoker from Omaha says a simple CT scan saved his life.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 4:46 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Bob Dearing was a smoker for 54 years.

The Air Force veteran tried to quit multiple times.

“Every smoker quits about a half dozen times before they actually do it,” says Dearing. “I think the longest I had went without one was probably about a week and then I’d start up again. I’d find some excuse to smoke again.”

It wasn’t until he started working at Methodist Hospital as a patient escort in 2013 that he quit for good.

Immediately after he quit, Bob says he instantly felt better.

“My wind, my stamina, you name it.”

Methodist is where he was also recommended for the hospital’s CAT scan program, for former and current smokers.

For years, his scans came back clear. But eventually, Dr. Karin Trujillo and Kim Kreikemeier noticed a small nodule, which continued to grow.

“It had changed and become more solid. This finding was concerning for an early malignancy,” said Kreikemeier.

His diagnosis: stage 1 lung cancer. Just months before, he was also diagnosed with early prostate cancer.

“Two cancers in a year’s time. Two surgeries, two cures,” said Dearing.

Today Bob is cancer free. He was able to have both cancers removed, without the need for radiation or chemotherapy. Now, he’s encouraging others to get their CAT scan.

To be eligible, patients must be between the ages of 50 and 80, smoking a minimum of one pack a day for 20 years, or if you’ve quit smoking within the past 15 years.

“You know, we have a lot of screening programs for prostate cancers, for breast cancers, for colon cancer and lung cancer kills more people than all three of those cancers combined. So I think it’s important just to be aware,” said Dr. Karin Trujillo, a thoracic surgeon at Methodist.

Once you’ve had lung cancer, you will need to be screened for the rest of your life.

“Only 25% of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer are actually operative candidates,” Dr. Trujillo said. “That means that the majority of patients are so advanced that surgery is not a feasible option for them. We know that if you quit smoking, your risk never goes back down to zero, but it definitely does go down [compared to] if you’re currently smoking, and it’s not just for lung cancer. It’s for all sorts of cancers that are associated with smoking, breast cancer, colon cancer, you can be at higher risk for pancreatic cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, COPD, emphysema, heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms of your aorta, I mean it hits every single system.”

He credits both women with saving his life.

“It’s never too late to quit smoking, and it’s never too late to be an advocate for yourself,” said Dr. Trujillo.

If you think you’re an eligible candidate for a CAT scan, Dr. Trujillo recommends you talk to your doctor about your options.

For information on what Methodist has to offer, visit its website.