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A routine scan caught lung cancer early

Thanks to consistent preventive testing, Maureen Devlin got the right care at the right time—and beat lung cancer.

Woman with gray hair and black glasses in white blouse in front of a coffee table and couch.
Manhattanite Maureen Devlin is grateful for early lung cancer screening.

Maureen Devlin, 72, hasn’t had a cigarette for more than 40 years. While she was a heavy smoker in her youth, sometimes smoking as many as two packs a day, she gave it up for good during the American Cancer Society’s First Great American Smokeout, held back in 1977, and hasn’t used tobacco since.

“I was the first of my friends to quit,” the Manhattan, NY, resident said. “It’s been so many years since I quit that I don’t even keep track of how long it’s been anymore.”

Yet, new guidance regarding a history of past smoking and its link to lung cancer led Maureen’s primary care physician, Sarah Lilly, MD, an internal medicine doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital, to suggest that Maureen undergo a baseline CT scan, just in case. Maureen said, at first, she was a bit surprised to hear the recommendation. It had been so long since her last cigarette and she wasn’t exhibiting any symptoms of cancer or lung trouble. But she agreed to the scan and also to see Ann Tilley, MD, a pulmonologist at the hospital.

“My doctor recommended Dr. Tilley and said she would be a good person to have on my team moving forward,” she said. “I had the scan, and everything looked fine.”

But a repeat scan the following year showed a small shape on her lung that Dr. Tilley flagged as something to watch.

“At the time, she told me not to worry too much,” Maureen said. “But she wanted to keep an eye on it to see if it changed over time.”

When Maureen underwent another routine scan this past year, the shape had evolved. Dr. Tilley immediately ordered a PET scan, and three spots lit up, one on Maureen’s lymph node and two on her lung. A biopsy confirmed that the tumors were malignant, and Maureen was diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer.

“I was in shock, I think. I didn’t have any symptoms. Nothing felt wrong with me, but I somehow had cancer,” she said. “Luckily, I had good, consistent medical care. And the doctors found it before it got too bad.”

Woman in a white blouse and black-frame glasses in a garden.
Maureen sailed through surgery and is back to enjoying her city and traveling.

Maureen was referred to several different oncologists at different facilities, leading to a consensus that she would need surgery followed by chemotherapy. The next step was to find a thoracic surgeon to perform the surgery. Once she met Richard Lazzaro, MD, chief of thoracic surgery at Lenox Hill, Maureen felt sure he was the one she wanted to trust with her care.

“I just fell in love with his manner and his honesty,” she said. “He was so straightforward. He explained everything. He asked me how I felt and what I wanted. And when I said that I wanted to start treatment immediately, he put me on the surgical calendar right away.”

Maureen said the surgery went extremely well. It was minimally invasive and was a fairly easy recovery. 

“I think I spent two nights in Lenox Hill, and Dr. Lazzaro was in at midnight one of those nights to check on me,” she said. “The nursing staff was wonderful. Everything was wonderful, and I felt so well taken care of. They did everything they could so I could get home and start getting better.”

Woman in a white blouse and leopard print pants walking outside on a sunny day.
Maureen is now feeling “absolutely wonderful” post-surgery.

Six months later, Maureen said she is feeling “absolutely wonderful” and enjoying life. She spends her time walking, as a native New Yorker does, all over the city, and traveling the globe. She recently had a follow-up CT scan with contrast and was told she’s in the clear for another few months.

“I just can’t say enough good things about Dr. Lazzaro and the care team at Lenox Hill,” she said. “When I call with questions, he and his team call me right back. Even if it’s after 5pm on a Friday. Dr. Lazzaro listened, he made sure to address my concerns and, most importantly, he got that cancer out of me. He was totally there for me 100% during the most terrifying time of my life. He really is everything a surgeon should be."