A smoker's tale: 'She saved her sister's life, that's the best gift you can give anyone'

How one woman's advice to her sister could help save the life of you or someone you know.

Posted: May 21, 2018 7:27 AM

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Thousand of current and former smokers who should be screened for lung cancer aren’t getting checked. That’s according to a new study from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Susan Franken, of Rochester, was among that group, until someone close to her made a life-saving suggestion. The 62-year old has been a smoker for 47 years and never thought to get a lung cancer screening until last fall when she got a phone call from her sister.

“I was out having a cigarette when she asked me,” says Susan. “I remember exactly where I was.”

Susan’s sister encouraged her to get a screening and in February, she went in for a CT scan at Mayo Clinic. The results: stage 1A lung cancer, which luckily is very treatable.

“Typically, we can remove it with surgery,” explains Shanda H. Blackmon, MD, MPH, Professor of Surgery at Mayo Clinic. Because it was caught so early Dr. Blackmon was able to remove Susan’s caner. But catching lung cancer at this stage is not easy because many patients, like Susan, don’t show any symptoms until it’s too late.

“One of the best things you can do for someone is send them for a lung cancer screening,” Dr. Blackmon says. “I have a mother that smoked, my grandfather died from lung cancer and I really emphasize how important it is to get screened.”

“It gives you some perspective on; people do care about you,” explains Susan who says she and her sister are closer than ever before. She will forever be grateful for the truly priceless gift she was given: a chance to continue to be a Grandma for a few more years.

Just over a month after her surgery, Susan graduated from Rochester Community & Technical College with a Liberal Arts & Sciences Associates Degree she had been working on getting for a number of years. In the audience to watch her get her diploma: her sister.

So, how do you know if you or someone you know should get annual lung cancer screenings? According to Mayo Clinic, people 55 years and older who smoke(d) heavily for many years should talk with their doctor about their lung cancer risk and if a low-dose CT scan is right for them.

As for Susan, she plans on “paying it forward” by sharing her story and a future donation to Savedbythescan.org.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 594427

Reported Deaths: 7389
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1229681733
Ramsey51530876
Dakota46037452
Anoka41844440
Washington26983283
Stearns22293222
St. Louis17814305
Scott17324126
Wright16121140
Olmsted1326598
Sherburne1175388
Carver1051245
Clay816792
Rice8075108
Blue Earth751941
Crow Wing666990
Kandiyohi657383
Chisago603251
Otter Tail575878
Benton572397
Goodhue478772
Douglas468576
Mower466732
Winona455150
Itasca440556
McLeod425459
Isanti424864
Morrison419860
Nobles408148
Beltrami397859
Steele389315
Polk384968
Becker381153
Lyon361251
Carlton346054
Freeborn342129
Pine329122
Nicollet326443
Brown305840
Mille Lacs305353
Le Sueur293123
Todd282832
Cass274628
Meeker257340
Waseca236522
Martin230932
Roseau209419
Wabasha20643
Hubbard190241
Dodge18543
Renville180543
Redwood174537
Houston172016
Cottonwood165823
Fillmore156710
Wadena156122
Pennington153719
Faribault152619
Chippewa152438
Kanabec145126
Sibley143910
Aitkin135336
Watonwan13329
Rock128419
Jackson121812
Pipestone116026
Yellow Medicine114220
Pope11096
Murray10639
Swift105818
Stevens91511
Marshall88117
Clearwater87016
Koochiching84315
Wilkin81612
Lake81120
Lac qui Parle75322
Big Stone6004
Lincoln5813
Grant5788
Mahnomen5539
Norman5409
Unassigned49593
Kittson48622
Red Lake3987
Traverse3705
Lake of the Woods3273
Cook1660

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 367374

Reported Deaths: 5946
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57696628
Linn20903335
Scott20071242
Black Hawk15825308
Woodbury15141228
Johnson1449883
Dubuque13382209
Dallas1118698
Pottawattamie11140168
Story1062848
Warren577889
Clinton556193
Cerro Gordo541289
Sioux514574
Webster512293
Marshall483275
Muscatine4812100
Des Moines458966
Wapello4305122
Buena Vista424940
Jasper419472
Plymouth401280
Lee376255
Marion363175
Jones299157
Henry292037
Carroll286052
Bremer284960
Crawford266240
Boone265134
Benton256655
Washington253950
Dickinson248543
Mahaska230451
Jackson222142
Clay215725
Kossuth215564
Tama209871
Delaware209741
Winneshiek196935
Page192722
Buchanan191532
Cedar190123
Hardin185743
Fayette185241
Wright184637
Hamilton180249
Harrison179673
Clayton169756
Butler165034
Madison162519
Mills162422
Floyd161142
Cherokee159038
Lyon158241
Poweshiek154934
Allamakee151451
Iowa148924
Hancock148434
Winnebago142631
Cass138654
Calhoun138413
Grundy136433
Emmet134240
Jefferson132735
Shelby130937
Sac130519
Union128333
Louisa128149
Appanoose128049
Mitchell126442
Chickasaw124116
Guthrie121530
Franklin120821
Humboldt119126
Palo Alto112823
Howard104622
Montgomery103338
Clarke100224
Unassigned9720
Keokuk95931
Monroe95229
Ida90635
Adair86532
Pocahontas85522
Davis83524
Monona82730
Osceola78816
Greene77710
Lucas77223
Worth7498
Taylor66012
Fremont6229
Decatur6089
Van Buren55918
Ringgold55824
Wayne53923
Audubon50910
Adams3384
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