WYOMING, Mich.-- A cancer survivor from Wyoming is crediting Mercy Health Saint Mary's $99 screening program for saving her life. Mary Blumenstein began smoking at just 16 years old. Despite caring for cancer patients as a nurse and losing her father to lung cancer, it wasn't until her children were grown that she found a reason to quit.
"Both my daughters were pregnant and I was going to be a new grandma and I thought, 'This is it, it's time,'" she said.
Several years after quitting, Blumenstein and her husband, Richard Blumenstein, heard about a new cancer screening program at Saint Mary's. For just $99, current and former heavy smokers can have a CT scan that helps detect the cancer early on.
Because cancer ran in Mary's family, and because she smoked for more than 40 years, her husband encouraged her to get screened.
While she had no symptoms and felt fine, her doctors found during her test, that her life was at risk.
"He said, 'you have lung cancer," Mary said.
Not only did she have stage 1 lung cancer, doctors also found a tumor on her kidney, and that the cancer had spread to some of her lymph nodes as well.
Kenda Klotz, clinical service director for the hospital's Lacks Cancer Center, said that more than 500 peoples have come in for screening. They found lung cancer in 13 of those patients and caught it earlier enough to treat in nine of them.
"There's nine people that are walking around today that would've in a year or two gotten a much different diagnoses and prognoses," Klotz said.
According to the National Cancer Institute, detecting lung cancer at an early stage could reduce the risk of a person dying by 20 percent.
More than 160,000 people in the country die from lung cancer every year, according to the American Cancer Society.
Klotz said CT scans are the only tests, so far, that can catch the cancer in the early phases.
While most insurance providers don't cover the test, Klotz said she suspects they soon will, based off the level of success programs, like the one at Saint Mary's, are seeing.
Mary's tumors were removed and after months of chemo she's here today enjoying her family and being a grandma. It's something her husband said is all thanks to early detection.
"[I'm] extremely grateful, extremely blessed," he said. "I want to do a lot of trips--won't say no to anything."
Candidates for the CT screening at Saint Mary's must be:
Age 55 to 80
A current or former smoker, who has a history of at least 30 pack years (one pack a day for 30 years, two packs a day for 15 years.)
Patients also need a physical referral.
For more information call, 616-685-5203.