Houston area doctor implements lung cancer screening program to help bring statistics down

BAYTOWN – November is lung cancer awareness month, and this kind of cancer is on the rise and is deadly.

According to the American Cancer Society, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Dr. Houssam Oueini implemented the lung cancer screening program at Houston Methodist Baytown to help bring that statistic down.

This program takes every CT scan (chest, neck, abdomen) that captures part of the lung and analyzes it for lung cancer.

“We look at these scans to make sure we don’t miss any precursors or early cancer,” Dr. Oueini said. “The majority of the time these are not cancer, but our job as physicians is to try to weed these out and make sure we don’t miss the ones that are going to become cancer.”

Teresa Ritter is one of the patients they’ve detected with early-stage lung cancer.

“I worked out. I always worked out. I’m pretty healthy, I thought. I run almost every day and I’m a vegetarian. I do what you’re supposed to do and then they told me I had lung cancer… it’s just hard to believe,” Ritter said.

Part of the shock was that she went to the hospital for something completely unrelated.

Alyssa Scheffield, a nurse practitioner, works with the program. She said before the program began patients would come in with progressed lung cancer and be disappointed it wasn’t caught sooner, despite getting care at the same facility.

“They’re trying to fix what you came in for right then, so sometimes they were missed,” Scheffield said this program plans to change that.

Teresa had surgery six weeks ago and is slowly returning to normal.

Now, she’ll be monitored for two years, but doesn’t need radiation or chemo.

“It would have progressed to stage two, three, it would’ve gotten worse,” Ritter said. “So, I’m very lucky.”

Houston Methodist said they’re currently expanding the program to the west hospital in Katy and eventually plan to have it at all of their campuses.