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    Read the story of ASCP Patient Champion, Tanya and learn about the role
    of laboratory testing in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.


Lung cancer is a malignant tumor that originates in the lungs. The lungs are two organs that are part of the respiratory system. One of the functions of the lungs is to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. The right lung has three lobes and the left lung has two lobes. The trachea is divided into two bronchi which enter the lungs. Bronchi divide into smaller branches called bronchioles, which have air sacs at the end called alveoli. Lung cancer usually begins in the lining of the bronchi, in the bronchioles or alveoli. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The signs and symptoms of lung cancer include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, chest pain, coughing up blood and weight loss. Although most people with lung cancer have a history of smoking (90%), lung cancer does occurs in those who have never smoked –10% of men with lung cancer and 20% of women with lung cancer were never smokers.


Here is an image showing normal lung tissue on the outside with a tumor in the middle.


“Without lab tests, I'm certain that I, along with countless others, wouldn't be here today.”

Tanya has always embraced life; traveling to many different continents, running marathons and mountain climbing. At age 42, after experiencing shortness of breath and wheezing, her primary care physician diagnosed her with asthma. Months later and still struggling, she went to see her doctor again who diagnosed her with bronchitis.

A year passed, and still no relief. Coincidentally, in her job as a communications writer, she interviewed a lung cancer patient and their symptoms were eerily similar to her own. She immediately contacted her primary care physician to request specific laboratory tests. In June 2016, the test results came back with a diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Tanya had never smoked so she was shocked when she heard the diagnosis. When her doctor told her to clear her calendar and not make any plans, she realized the severity of her diagnosis.

A month later, she had surgery to have a right lower lobectomy where the majority of her right lung was successfully removed. They removed more than anticipated as a preventative measure to prevent possible spreading of the cancer. Having worked in a major academic medical center for more than a decade, Tanya was well aware of the crucial work behind the scenes by the medical laboratory team who diagnosed her accurately with lung cancer. “So many medical issues would go undiagnosed without laboratory testing and the individuals who conduct those tests,” she says. “These tests help rule out certain conditions and are able to pinpoint exact conditions. They are crucial and life-saving.”

Two years after her cancer diagnosis, she married the love of her life, Nathan, and today Tanya is cancer free. While she no longer runs marathons, she is still an inveterate traveler. Since her surgery, she has traveled throughout Europe, climbed Mt. Fuji, completed the Tour du Mont Blanc, a 100-mile trek through France, Switzerland and Italy, scuba dived in Hawaii and Mexico, swam with dolphins in the Bahamas, and has visited the Pyramids in Egypt.

Her advice to other patients after they receive a cancer diagnosis is to stay positive, keep busy doing the things they enjoy and to learn as much as they can about their diagnosis. In hindsight, her cancer diagnosis and recovery have catapulted her desire to embrace every moment in life. “I am beyond grateful to still be taking deep breaths through my lungs each day,” she says.

Tanya Survived Lung Cancer with Help from Lab Tests and her Pathologist