How One Latina Fought the ‘Invisible Disease’


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When she turned 50, Jacqueline “Jackie” Marino quit smoking.

A year after the Puerto Rican native and resident of Fairfax Station, Va., kicked the habit as a gift to herself and in response to her son’s pleas, she felt in great health…

except a nagging sinus infection in 2014.

Jackie Moreno Latina Lung CancerJackie went to an allergist about her sinus infection. Because she had coughed up blood, the doctor sent her for an imaging evaluation; it showed a spot on her lung.

Could it be lung cancer?

Lung cancer, dubbed an “invisible disease,” often doesn’t manifest until diagnosed in later stages, when there are fewer chances for long-term survival. For Latinos, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and second-leading for women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Jackie needed a biopsy, but the tumor was deep in the lower left part of her lung, very close to a vessel. Her doctors weren’t sure if they could perform a traditional needle biopsy or bronchoscopy.

Dr. Amit Mahajan, interventional pulmonologist with Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, stepped in with a solution: an innovative technology like a “GPS system for the lung.”

“The superDimension system with LungGPS technology lets us make a three-dimensional recreation of the pathway of the lungs down to the lesion so we can easily locate it, which helps aid in a diagnosis,” Mahajan said. “Instead of having to do other biopsies or procedures, we can get an accurate diagnosis to take into the operating room in short order and get the patient treated and on the road to recovery.”

Jackie’s diagnosis: Her tumor was cancerous.

“Before the diagnosis, I was making a concerted effort to be more active,” Jackie said. “To be told I had lung cancer after this was shocking and scary.”

Dr. Sandeep Khandhar, surgical director of thoracic oncology at Inova, used reloads with Tri-Staple technology to remove Jackie’s left lower lobe of her lung. This let him simultaneously cut the affected area and seal it with staples on both sides through a tiny incision in her chest instead of cracking open the chest to operate.

Thanks to this minimally invasive approach, Jackie was discharged the day after surgery.

“I haven’t had to go through another treatment since the surgery,” said Jackie. “It’s important to be aware that lung cancer can happen to anyone, whether you have a history as a smoker or not.

“If the doctors hadn’t found the cancer early, I don’t know what would have happened. An early diagnosis might save a life.”

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