“I feel like the luckiest person on earth,” says lung cancer survivor Margaret Marshall, from Whitkirk.
The 82-year-old was diagnosed with lung cancer by chance after undergoing a full body scan for another medical condition.
For years, Margaret had suffered from a disease called ‘ulcerative colitis’, where the colon and rectum become inflamed.
Eventually, doctors decided she would need her bowel removed. Margaret was 75 at the time, so she was given a full body scan to ensure she was fit enough for major surgery.
The scan showed potential signs of lung cancer. Growths of abnormal tissue called ‘nodules’ were identified in both lungs and in her liver.
“The doctors said they were so tiny, they might be nothing at all,” Margaret explains. “At that point in time they just didn’t know.” It was decided that Margaret was healthy enough for the bowel operation.
Margaret and her partner Kevin
Following this, she was referred to a respiratory clinic where she underwent a CT scan – the same test that will be used in the Leeds Lung Health Check.
A nodule in her left lung and one in her liver had disappeared. However, two nodules were still present in her right lung. Margaret said: “It was suggested that we wait a while until the nodules grew. But I didn’t want to wait. If it was cancer, I wanted them removed straight away. So I was referred to the surgical department.”
After fully recovering from having her bowel removed, Margaret returned to the operating table for a second time. Having worked as a medical secretary for 26 years, she knew how important it was to receive treatment as soon as possible in case the abnormalities did turn out to be cancer. The surgeon was able to remove one nodule and tests found it was benign, meaning it wasn’t cancerous.
The other nodule was so small it was impossible to find during surgery. “The surgeon said it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” Margaret says. “The nodule was so tiny. I was told to wait a year and then go back for another scan. So I did, and by then it had doubled in size.” The nodule had grown from 6mm to 12mm.
Although it was still very small, Margaret needed another operation. This time, the surgeon was able to successfully remove the nodule through keyhole surgery. Tests showed it was a very rare, slow-growing type of cancer. Margaret needed no further treatment.
She said: “When I was discharged from hospital, I was given a letter. I got home, opened it and that’s when I discovered I’d had cancer. I’d assumed it was another little benign thing, so it came as quite a shock.”
Since having the second nodule removed, Margaret has undergone further scans and these have shown no further signs of cancer. “I had no symptoms at all, even after the nodule had grown,” Margaret says. “I didn’t know anything was wrong. That’s why screening for lung cancer is so important.
It’s vital it’s found early.” Margaret recently took part in a cancer rehabilitation programme with her husband, Kevin.
The 12-week ‘Active Beyond Cancer’ course, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research and delivered in partnership with the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, provides free health and fitness coaching and advice to increase levels of physical activity and improve confidence.
Margaret added: “Apart from getting breathless sometimes, I don’t feel 82 at all. Since taking part in the programme, we’ve been watching what we eat and going for walks at Temple Newsam when we can.
We’ve learned a lot. “I’m just so glad my surgeon insisted I have a full body scan. It saved my life. Now more lives will be saved thanks to the Leeds Lung Health Check.”