Lung Cancer Awareness: How a blood donation led to an unexpected diagnosis

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- What was supposed to be a routine blood donation turned into a cancer diagnosis.

Lake Geneva resident Sue Ryl was confused when she got a call from her local blood bank saying they would not be using her donation.

"Oh, I was so ticked that I couldn't donate, and they were going to throw my blood away," she said.

"But I really didn't think all that much about it. I thought, 'next time I'll be able to give.'"

That was the first time in 40 years that something in her blood donation raised flags.

"I went to the oncologist/hematologist, and he said, 'No, you won't be able to donate for a while until we get this all figured out,'" she said.

What doctors found was a lesion on her right lung.

"We watched it for a little over a year, and then it grew, and then they said we agreed once it changes, you will have a biopsy," Ryl said.

A biopsy confirmed the lesion was cancerous early enough for minimally invasive surgery to be the cure.

"If lung cancer is diagnosed through a screening program, two-thirds of those diagnoses are in the early stage, and those are very treatable," said Dr. Bill Tisol, the Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Aurora Health Care who operated on Ryl, said.

If you are at high risk of lung cancer, doctors urge you to get screened.

"Most lung cancers will not have any symptoms until it's at a more advanced stage," Pulmonologist at Aurora Health Care Dr. Steven Leh said

"Screening CT Scans are free as long as you qualify. There's no copay, no deductible."

With no family history of lung cancer and no increased risks, Ryl's cancer diagnosis was by accident.

"You know, it's an incidental finding, and I'm thankful for it. So, if that happens to people, they need to grab it and go with it," she said.

Now five weeks out from surgery, she is feeling great and hopes to help others by donating blood once her hematologist clears her.

November is lung cancer awareness month. For more information on screening and lung cancer statistics, visit the American Cancer Society's website.

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