"I had a cough that just wouldn’t quit and finally my wife recommended that I go see my family doctor,” shared Ted Fitzgerald, a retired Junior High Language Arts teacher in the Lancaster region. The X-ray revealed a small spot on the upper right part of his lung.
Having had prostate cancer over 20 years ago, Ted returned to Lancaster General Health and sought out the pulmonology team who confirmed from the biopsy that Ted had developed Stage 3 lung cancer.
A treatment plan was created immediately. Ted began chemotherapy treatments at Lancaster General’s Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute; his first course of treatment prior to transitioning his care downtown to Penn Medicine, where surgery would be evaluated by surgical subspecialists in lung cancer.
A Multidisciplinary Approach
From a surgical perspective, the location of the cancer, in the upper right part of his lung, known as the hilum, caused some concern. Too close to the trachea, the risks for infection and serious complications were astronomical making surgery too dangerous for Ted.
Feeling deflated, Ted and his surgeon discussed alternative treatments -- one including proton therapy, a non-invasive, precise form of radiation that targets and kills tumors without damaging surrounding tissues and critical organs. Luckily for Ted, the Roberts Proton Therapy Center at Penn Medicine, is the largest and most comprehensive facility of its kind in the United States.
Ted underwent 36 consecutive weekdays of proton therapy, with each treatment taking approximately 15 minutes. Of that 15 minutes, 10 minutes involved positioning on the table and 5 minutes of radiation.
Upon completing the proton therapy treatments, it's protocol for patients to ring a bell as a symbol of celebration and hope. Ted rang that bell with tremendous vigor surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren and family friends.
Breathing Easy Again
Four months after his last proton treatment, Ted returned for follow-up scans to determine the effectiveness of the radiation.
“Where was this? There it is. All you have left is a 1 cm ball of dead cells,” claimed his physician.
He was so relieved. “The doctors at Lancaster General and Penn Medicine were absolutely wonderful, very down to earth, great sense of humor, and extremely knowledgeable, always providing terrific advice," says Ted. "If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
Lancaster General Health’s Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute works together with the Abramson Cancer Center to provide advanced cancer treatment from Lancaster to Philadelphia. Patients have access to lung cancer specialists who evaluate and treat only lung disease with personalized treatment plans that often include a combination of therapies designed to meet the specific needs of each patient.
Learn more about our advanced treatments and schedule an appointment at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.