During the last 16 years, Dian Snowden has sought treatment at MD Anderson for numerous health issues, including thyroid cancer screening and a breast cancer recurrence. But it was a trip to MD Anderson’s Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center in December 2016 that helped spot her lung cancer.
“Even though I am 75 years old, I drive four hours to come to MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center because this is where I get the best care,” Dian says.
Thyroid nodule leads Dian to MD Anderson
Dian first came to MD Anderson in 2001, when a nodule was found on her thyroid. It wasn’t cancer, but it could become cancerous someday. Her local doctors told her to have her thyroid removed.
Not wanting to have surgery – and the side effects that come with it -- Dian traveled from her hometown of Natchitoches, Louisiana, to MD Anderson. Her doctors at MD Anderson decided to monitor Dian’s thyroid instead of removing it. More than 16 years later, she still has her thyroid – and hasn’t developed thyroid cancer.
Breast cancer recurrence brings Dian back
Then, in 2002, Dian was diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided to have it treated closer to home, and underwent a lumpectomy and radiation therapy there. But she wishes she’d come to MD Anderson. The staff she encountered here seemed more knowledgeable, and the treatment ran more smoothly, she says.
Five years later, her breast cancer returned. This time, without hesitation, Dian returned to MD Anderson.
“There’s no perfect treatment anywhere, but I trust MD Anderson,” she says.
An advocate for her own health
Over the years, Dian has learned to become an advocate for her own health.
“She has an honorary M.D.,” her husband jokes.
One day while reading over her medical records, Dian noticed that it said a local doctor had found a ground glass granuloma, a finding on lung scans that may indicate lung disease. Dian asked her local doctor what that meant and if she should be concerned. He told her it was extremely common condition, especially in the South.
At this point, Dian had graduated from MD Anderson’s Breast Clinic and was making annual trips to the Cancer Prevention Center’s Survivorship Clinic. That’s where she met nurse practitioner Marita Lazzaro.
When Dian mentioned the granuloma, she saw a look of concern wash over Lazzaro’s face. She told Dian to see a pulmonologist. Dian shrugged off the recommendation. She repeated her local doctor’s words. Granulomas were common – especially in the region. But she never forgot that look of concern on Lazzaro’s face.
Lung cancer diagnosis and treatment
A few months later, Dian developed a cough and chest spasms so severe she had to visit the emergency room. The doctors conducted a CT scan. Afterward, Dian read her medical records and saw a note from the local hospital that said a spot on her lung had grown. Remembering that look of concern on Lazzaro’s face, she scheduled an appointment with an MD Anderson pulmonologist.
Here, pulmonologist Vickie R. Shannon, M.D., told her the spot hadn’t actually grown. But she still didn’t like the look of it.
“See how the edges are fuzzy?” Shannon asked.
Those fuzzy edges turned out to be lung cancer. In March, Dian had a lobectomy, a surgery to remove the part of the right lung that contained the tumor. Now, once more, she’s cancer-free.
Gratitude for MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center
Dian continues to come to MD Anderson for check-ups. But it’s the care she received from Lazzaro and the Cancer Prevention Center that she says is truly invaluable.
“I have been treated at the Head and Neck Department, Breast Pulmonology, Cardiology, Thoracic Surgery, and Marita can look at the whole picture of my health,” she says. “I feel a lot of comfort here.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.