Dr Chris discusses CT scans detecting lung cancer
As a non-smoker, primary school teacher Natasha Loveridge was shocked when she learned she had stage four lung cancer.
The 49-year-old is now campaigning for a national universal screening programme.
“We need to put it down in people’s consciousness that if you’ve got lungs, you can get lung cancer,” said Natasha.
“It’s raising the profile and getting rid of that stigma as well. I still find myself, even now, saying, ‘I’ve got lung cancer, but I don’t smoke!'”
Natasha first suspected something wasn’t right when she noticed her breathing had become laboured and she sounded like she had “swallowed a squeaky dog toy”.
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In June of last year, her voice was huskier than usual but the symptoms soon faded.
Thinking it was nothing more than a response to feelings of stress, Natasha carried on with her life.
But when a strange cough developed in August, Natasha sought medical advice from her doctor.
Referred to the hospital, an X-ray revealed a life-altering mass on her lung.
Further tests and scans confirmed abnormalities in her lymph nodes were cancerous.
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“When it was first suggested, it was a complete shock. It was like, ‘I can’t have lung cancer,'” she recalled.
“I am too young, I don’t smoke, I don’t know people who smoke, I am really fit, I used to run, I do lots of hill walks.
“I ride my bike, I do loads of yoga, and I eat predominantly a plant-based diet.”
Natasha said: “Whenever I’d go to all these appointments, I was the youngest person there.
“It was just a shock, and it was complete and utter disbelief. It’s like, ‘It can’t be me.’ To be honest, I still think there’s a little bit of that in me now.”
Natasha was told her cancer might have arisen from an EGFR+ gene mutation.
EGFR+ UK explained: “EGFR stands for epidermal growth factor receptor.”
The protein is involved with the growth and division of healthy cells, but a mutation can mean the gene is “over expressed”.
The charity elaborated: “This can cause cells to grow out of control and lead to cancer.”
Targeted therapies work directly on the lung cancer cells that express the mutation.
As for Natasha, she is determined to live a full life with the help of the cancer-blocking drug, osimertinib.
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