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Reading, PA 19605

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Thankful for Every Moment While Living with Lung Cancer

biomarkers-lung-cancerAs a busy mother of two sons, Ivy Elkins shrugged off her sore neck and elbow pain for months. She thought it was probably from the extra hours spent planning a bar mitzvah for her oldest son. After all, a middle-aged woman who never smoked doesn't fit the typical profile of a lung cancer patient.

"To say that I was shocked and in disbelief is an understatement," Ivy recalls. "I didn't have a cough. I didn't have any trouble breathing. I didn't have any of the symptoms that I would associate with lung cancer. I didn't know that someone like me could get lung cancer."

It's a common misconception that lung cancer is a burden borne by smokers alone. While smoking remains the major risk factor for lung cancer, never-smokers may also develop the disease. In women, up to 53% of lung cancers may not be caused by direct smoking. In these patients, the underlying cause of lung cancer is often a genetic mutation, a permanent alteration in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene. To identify mutations, patients undergo "biomarker testing" (see https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms?cdrid=45618) at the time of diagnosis. Doctors and patients then use the test results to evaluate treatment options.

After Ivy was diagnosed with late stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC - http://www.cancer.org/cancer/lungcancer-non-smallcell/detailedguide/non-small-cell-lung-cancer-what-is-non-small-cell-lung-cancer), the most common form of lung cancer, she underwent biomarker testing. She learned that she has a specific type of mutation in the EGFR gene. EGFRs are structures that exist on cell surfaces. When mutated, these structures can cause cells to multiply at a rate that is out of control, driving tumor growth.

Ivy was more optimistic about her treatment when she learned about her mutation status. "I knew that it likely meant that I could be a candidate for treatment with a targeted therapy, as opposed to having traditional chemotherapy." After her healthcare team learned more about her specific type of EGFR mutation and discussed treatment options, she started taking a targeted therapy.

Now, because she had the biomarker testing, Ivy urges fellow patients to take this advice: "It's vitally important if you're diagnosed with lung cancer to have biomarker testing done, to help determine the best treatment option for your cancer."

About Sacred Heart Villa

The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ created Sacred Heart Villa (formerly St. Michael Convent) in 2003 with the vision of providing a personal care home for the Sisters and other seniors of southeastern Pennsylvania. The Sisters renovated St. Michael in order to create 35 personal care residential rooms. Sacred Heart Villa officially opened her doors to her first new residents in May 2004, with space for 57 Sisters and 40 other senior residents.  The facility has two residential buildings, a remodeled dining room, a new fireside lounge, library, cafĂ© and beauty shop. The chapel remains in the middle of the facility for it truly is the Heart of the community. Each new residential room provides an individual with privacy, safety and security in an environment of beauty and grace. Mass is celebrated each day, and is open to the public.

Sacred Heart Villa is now accepting residents. If you are seeking care for yourself or loved one, contact Sacred Heart Villa today at 610-929-5751 for a tour. You can also visit http://sacredheartvillapa.org. or visit us at http://www.sacredheartvillapa.org/.