Nov 23, 2022

Family loss fuels lung cancer advocacy

Medtronic employees honor their parents by promoting early lung screening and advanced technology

Caleb Miller believes his mother might still be alive today if he knew six years ago what he knows now.

A persistent cough brought his mother Linda to the hospital in her early fifties and a subsequent x-ray identified a spot on her lungs which her doctors attributed to an infection and treated with antibiotics.  When her cough improved, she assumed the problem was gone and neither she nor her doctors followed up on the incidental lung nodule that had been noted in her charts.  Six years later, extreme hip pain led to the discovery that stage IV lung cancer had spread to other parts of her body. Miller watched his once vibrant and healthy mom suffer until she passed away three years ago at age 62.

His mother’s experience inspired Miller to join Medtronic as part of the company’s Lung Health sales team.

“Her lung nodule really fell through the cracks,” said Miller, who promotes Medtronic LungGPS™ patient management platform and ILLUMISITE™ fluoroscopic navigation platform to physicians in the Tennessee area. “That's the driving factor behind why I'm doing this work with hospitals and doctors to build these lung nodule programs so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Caleb Miller with his mom, Linda
Caleb Miller with his mom, Linda, a few years before her death from lung cancer.

The Medtronic Lung Health ecosystem includes software that integrates into a hospital’s database to find patients who had incidental lung nodules and make sure they are followed up on.

Early detection is key

Nearly 75% of lung cancer cases aren’t diagnosed until stage III/IV, when survival rates are less than 22%.  And all too often the average time from detection to treatment for lung cancer ranges from 150 to 180 days. Conversely, when lung cancer is diagnosed early and resected within one month, survival rates jump to 92%. The Medtronic Lung Health business vision is to improve outcomes by helping to facilitate earlier diagnosis and partnering with physicians to streamline the continuum of care.

Inspired to Advocacy

Medtronic employee Davey Pierce also regrets that his father’s lung cancer wasn’t diagnosed earlier.  His father, a heavy smoker, put off doctor visits until a bad cough in the summer of 2007 revealed a stage IIIB diagnosis. Pierce remembers how hard it was to watch the strong man he admired struggle until his death a few months later.

A picture containing person, necktie, clothing, wall
Medtronic employee Davey Pierce (right) with his father who died from lung cancer in 2007.

Pierce’s advocacy for helping lung cancer patients goes beyond his role selling the Medtronic surgical instruments physicians use to help remove tumors.  He also continues advocating for stronger lung cancer screening in his home state of Oklahoma, which has one of the highest smoking rates in the United States.

“The screening is a non-invasive procedure, so you lie back on the table, they take a low dose CT scan, and you move on,” said Pierce on encouraging smokers to be proactive about their health. “Hindsight’s always 20/20, but knowing my dad was a two-pack-a-day smoker, if he could have gone in every year for a screening, maybe my dad could have been caught early and maybe he’d still be with us.”

Important Safety Information

ILLUMISITE™: Not for use in pediatric patients or those with unstable hemodynamic status, and has not been verified in those with electrically or magnetically activated implanted devices. Specific risks include but not limited to: bleeding and pneumothorax. Refer to IFU for complete safety information.

LungGPS™: LungGPS™ does not diagnose or treat lung cancer nor replace lung cancer assessment in standard clinical practice. LungGPS™ should be used in conjunction with professional guidelines for patient management decision. The system should not be used with any instruments that have not been tested and verified as compatible with LungGPS™. Refer to IFU for complete safety information.

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