Lung cancer affects up to 170,000 Americans each year. Treating it is difficult, and many patients endure grueling therapies. Add that to a restricted ability to breathe, and their quality of life plummets. Now, doctors are clearing the lungs and giving patients some breathing relief.
As Joe Johnson enjoys time with his nephew, he has a sense of comfort that he hasn't had in more than a year. He had chemo and radiation to fight the disease, but he had another, more immediate concern.
"I was wheezing so bad, it just, it was just like asthma attacks most of the time, day to day, everyday. It restricted my activities completely. I couldn't do a lot of the things I used to do, especially walking."
Dr. Kevin Kovitz says breathing is a big problem for lung cancer patients.
“Probably the worst thing that can happen to a lung cancer patient, in terms of their fears, is to have a suffocating feeling."
To alleviate that fear, Dr. Kovitz uses lasers to clear out tumors and create more breathing room. Then, stents keep airways open.
"I'm a plumber of the airways. By being plumbers, we open up the pipes, improve the airflow, and improve the oxygen getting it where it needs to go. We can relieve that shortness of breath pretty readily in those patients with larger airway obstructions and they brighten up."
Joe had a laser procedure and a stent. He brightened up right away.
"It's tremendous. I get a lot more air, and I can walk a great distance now. I just look at it one day at a time, regardless, but now I can breathe a lot easier every day that I do wake up."
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