Teddy Papoutsakis is an active and busy individual. Outside of work, he pursues a unique hobby for a man his age: extreme mountain biking.
So it’s no surprise that he didn’t want to take time out of his busy life to get a lung cancer screening, especially because he wasn’t experiencing any obvious symptoms.
Teddy’s primary care physician, Dr. Andrew Fay from Baystate South Hadley Adult Medicine, recommended he get the painless screening because he fit the conditions for screening: Teddy was over age 55 and he had smoked at least a pack a day for decades
“My primary care doctor was always trying to sign me up for a lung cancer screening program,” says Papoutsakis. “Honestly, I was going to blow it off. But they said they could do it on a weekend and it didn’t cost anything [with my insurance], so I went in for the screening.”
One week after having the screening, Dr. Fay asked that he come back into the office to review something that came up results. After that visit, he had a second scan, which yet again showed a concerning blemish on his lung.
FROM LUNG CANCER SCREENING TO SURGERY
Papoutsakis wasted no time. “I said okay, let’s get this thing out of there,” he says. “It was early stage lung cancer.”
Dr. Elena Ziarnik, a Baystate thoracic surgeon, performed the surgery to remove the cancer. “His diagnosis was adenocarcinoma. Surgery can often cure these early stage tumors,” she explains.
“Ted was asymptomatic—meaning he had no symptoms,” Ziarnik explains. “If he did not have the screening, the lung cancer would have continued to grow and potentially spread even farther. Cancer screenings let us find cancer earlier than if we wait until symptoms to appear. And finding lung cancer earlier means we have a better chance of curing it with surgery alone, or surgery combined with chemo and radiation therapies.”
STILL MORE SURGERIES AT BAYSTATE
Shortly after his lung surgery, Papoutsakis was having problems with a hernia and needed to have another surgery. The procedure, performed by Baystate’s Dr. Jacqueline Wu, was successful.
But Papoutsakis wasn’t done yet.
“About four weeks after recovering from the hernia operation, I suddenly started forgetting passwords to my computer. I called Dr. Fay.”
He recalls, “the doctor said “I know you and I know something is going really wrong.' He called the emergency department and asked that they admit me right away. Four days later, they were removing a tumor from my brain.”
Baystate neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Schapiro was able to successfully remove the brain tumor, and started Papoutsakis on chemotherapy and radiation to ensure that the cancer had not spread.
RIDING THROUGH RECOVERY
“I think the Baystate doctors and nurses are first rate,” Papoutsakis says about his experiences at Baystate Medical Center. “Food was fantastic. Every time I was in the hospital, the nurses were sweethearts. They really made recovery great.”
His recovery was so great that Papoutsakis was back to mountain biking less than five months after his first lung screening. Papoutsakis is happy he can appreciate life’s little moments, and will continue to see his oncologist at the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, Dr. John McCann, for follow up monitoring.
“I feel really good," he says. "I still mountain bike twice a week, and my lungs feel great.”
THE VALUE OF CANCER SCREENINGS
Papoutsakis is grateful to Dr. Fay for his persistence, and is relieved that he did not skip the screening. He knows that if he had waited, the cancer could have grown and spread without symptoms for many years.
“If I hadn’t had the screening, I might be saying I feel fine but I could have had stage IV cancer,” he says.
While he’s optimistic his cancer is behind him, Papoutsakis knows he came close to a much worse outcome. He now tells other “skeptical” patients to listen to their doctors and schedule a lung cancer screening if it is suggested. He tells people now, “You go in and the scan takes 15 minutes. It’s easy. I don’t know how it could have gone any better with me at Baystate!”
Learn more about Baystate’s Lung Cancer Screening Program.