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Man fulfilling mom’s legacy to educate about lung cancer screenings


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    MICHIGAN (WNEM) — Erick LaPorte still lives with the pain of losing both his parents from the same ugly disease within the span of five years.

“To have all these plans once you retire and to not make it,” LaPorte said.

He always pictured his kids growing up with grandpa and grandma around. That dream came to a tragic finale last October when LaPorte lost his last living parent.

“This is what I was scared of. They had all kinds of plans for grandkids, and I didn’t want it to end up like this,” LaPorte said.

LaPorte’s mom, Jeanine, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer just days after the new year in 2015. She died just four months later.

Jeanine was 56-years-old and had quit smoking before her diagnosis. She started having complications LaPorte says were considered common symptoms of kicking the habit.

“She didn’t realize, none of us realized, what the extent of her disease was at the time and how critical it really was,” LaPorte said.

When his dad started showing signs of something wrong, they tried to get ahead of what would eventually be another devastating diagnosis.

“Just really bad Deja Vu when it hit my dad too, but we saw the difference some of those things can make for the patient and families to screen and treat,” LaPorte said.

LaPorte says an early lung cancer screening made a world of difference, despite it being a more aggressive cancer. The earlier detection gave them years with his dad as opposed to just weeks with his mom.

“Even in the three short years the treatment had advanced, he was doing pretty good as the cancer goes because they caught it early,” LaPorte said.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force just recently changed who it considers high risk by changing its guidelines for who can get a free lung cancer screening.

It has lowered the age threshold from 55 to 50. It used to require a person to have smoked a pack a day for 30 years to qualify, that has been lowered to 20. Current smokers or those who have quit within the last 15 years meet the criteria for a screening.

“There’s such a benefit to catching cancers early, especially deadly cancers like lung cancer. They felt they could open up the perimeters of the screening a little bit more and benefit more people,” said Ann Werle, thoracic nurse navigator at Covenant.

Werle said private insurance companies have up to a year to recognize the new guidelines. There’s no indication on when they will be approved for Medicare and Medicaid. She said yearly young cancer screenings are a vital tool to beating the disease.

“The biggest problem is we are waiting for those to take effect when the insurance companies recognize the new guidelines that will be when we can lower our criteria at Covenant and accept patients,” Werle said.

“If we would’ve gone through before my mom and realized symptoms or screenings available, maybe we would’ve pushed more, but we just didn’t know,” LaPorte said.

If you have any questions whether you qualify for screening, call the number on the back of your insurance card and they can let you know if it’s covered.

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