Stockbridge, Ga. (April 17, 2014) – Henry County resident Mary Plemmons, 79, recently received not one, but two surprising diagnoses after doctors at Piedmont Henry Hospital discovered a mass on her brain and sent her to Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, where Howard Chandler, M.D., a neurosurgical oncologist, removed a brain tumor.
A biopsy showed the brain tumor was actually a result of stage four lung cancer having metastasized to the brain. Plemmons, who has lost her brother and her nephew to lung cancer, was at home the morning she was taken to the hospital. Her daughter realized her mom's speech was slurred and suspected she might be having a stroke.
"When Mary came to us, she had already had at least one seizure," said Richard Stappenbeck, M.D., Piedmont Henry. "When tests revealed the mass on her brain, we kept her at Piedmont Henry until her seizures subsided and then we transferred her to Piedmont Atlanta as quickly as possible."
Two days later, Plemmons underwent brain surgery and later received Gamma Knife therapy. She recently started a series of 32 radiation treatments at Piedmont Fayette Hospital to aid her in her fight.
"As unusual as it may seem, it is not at all uncommon to discover a primary cancer – especially lung and breast cancers – from tumors found in the brain," said Dr. Chandler, Plemmon's neurosurgical oncologist. "Unfortunately, the high number of lung cancer deaths is due in part to the disease being found after it has spread."
Lung cancer causes more deaths than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined, according to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Common symptoms of lung cancer include coughing that lasts, blood in lungs, excessive mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest area pain, tiredness, pneumonia, hoarse voice, pain when swallowing, and high-pitched sound when breathing.
"My mom never got confused or had other symptoms of a brain tumor," said Alicia Plemmons-Turley, Plemmons' daughter. "She had just gone to a lung doctor two weeks prior to her diagnosis after her family doctor saw a spot on her lungs in an X-ray. The lung doctor said everything looked okay and that overall, he gave her B+."
Known risk factors for lung cancer are tobacco smoking, contact with radon, contact with asbestos or other cancer-causing agents that target the lungs, family history of lung cancer and diagnoses of certain other cancers and/or lung disease. As with many diseases, early detection of lung cancer is key to successful treatment. That's why Piedmont Henry has launched a new lung cancer screening program to improve early detection.
To learn more about lung cancer screenings at Piedmont, call 404-425-7915 or visit piedmontcancer.org/lung.