Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada and worldwide, with 70 per cent of all cases diagnosed in advanced stages. Thanks to remarkable donor support, teams of researchers at VGH and beyond aimed to buck this trend by detecting lung cancers earlier when treatment is more effective.
Today, after proving its astounding effectiveness, this program has expanded province-wide.
And no one understands the importance of this better than Tanya Bruce.
Early screening saved Tanya’s life
Tanya witnessed firsthand the devastation lung cancer can have, as she watched her mother pass from the disease. Since then, she always wondered whether she was going to have it one day, too.
And so in 2020, Tanya jumped at the opportunity to join a cancer screening pilot at VGH knowing it could one day save her life. During her annual CT scan in February 2022, as part of the Lung Cancer Screening Pilot at VGH, the physicians found something of interest. This flag triggered a cascade of care for Tanya which confirmed she had a cancerous tumour in her lungs.
Thanks to catching it early, the tumour could be surgically removed and Tanya wouldn’t require the potentially life-impacting side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
On March 31, 2022, Dr. John Yee, Head of Thoracic Surgery at VGH, performed the procedure to remove the tumour and any potentially damaged tissue.
“I wasn’t even in the hospital for 25 hours,” says Tanya. “I went home the next day. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I went for a little walk and then I was making soup in the afternoon.”
Donors transforming care
The Lung Cancer Screening Pilot Program at VGH that saved Tanya’s life was made possible thanks to a $1.2 million donation from philanthropists Emily and Jason Ko. This transformational gift launched the program, conducted by Dr. Stephen Lam, an award-winning scientist specializing in early detection of lung cancer, Dr. John Mayo, former Head of Radiology at VGH, and Dr. Yee.
Due to the success of the pilot program, BC has expanded this lung cancer screening program province-wide to reach 36 centres across all health authorities. Today, there is more equitable access to care, earlier detection within these communities which will improve survival rates, and a consistent, high-level screening and prevention program available to every eligible patient.
And it all started here at VGH thanks to donors.