Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of women and men, but survival rates are four times higher when lung cancer is detected early. With this in mind, we here at the Ad Council knew we had to take on this important issue and encourage those who are at high risk for lung cancer to get screened.
We launched our “Saved By The Scan” lung cancer screening campaign in 2017, and since then our inboxes have been flooded with stories from people who saw the ads and as a result spoke with their doctors, got the scan and caught the disease early.
These stories proved to us that those who detect their lung cancer early can defy the odds and go on to live happy, healthy lives – and they show that our work in public service communications can not only change mindsets or spur change but we can ultimately save lives, and that’s priceless.
Read on to see Milli Wilson’s story of how our campaign saved her life, and why she can’t stop singing now.
“I am a 62-year-old mother of two and a grandmother of five, and I love to sing! My favorite song is 'At Last' by Etta James. I've even won many competitions at state and national levels for my singing. But I think the fear of losing my singing voice is what contributed to me not wanting to even think about lung cancer, even though I watched my mother and my brother die of lung cancer.
“I was their caretaker and it was extremely difficult, as they were both diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. It was too late for them and neither survived a year after diagnosis – I sat at their bedsides when each of them took their last breath. But that was 20 years ago when low-dose CT scans were not available. I told myself that lung cancer was something that could never happen to me; disregarding that I smoked for more than 40 years and I had family that died from it. I was in denial. Then one night while watching one of my favorite guilty pleasure shows, something caught my eye.
“I normally don’t pay attention to commercials, but I saw a woman climbing a mountain of cigarette butts and suddenly I was fixed to the screen. As she reached the peak, I heard the message ‘You stopped smoking, not start screening,’ and the PSA said to go to SavedByTheScan.org to find out if I was eligible for screening. I did just that, and I was indeed eligible.
“At my next doctor’s visit, even though I had no symptoms, I requested the low-dose CT scan - a month later I was diagnosed with Stage 1 lung cancer. My doctors quickly got to work on my treatment and removed the six-centimeter mass from my right lung and then I had a few chemotherapy sessions as a preventive measure.
“I’m happy to say I recently celebrated one year of being cancer-free, and I’m proud to be a living example of how this low-dose CT scan can save a live. I stepped up and took care of myself and now I am a lung cancer thriver. And I can still sing – even better than I did before.
“My advice to current and former smokers would be: don’t be afraid to act, put your health first and you’ll be forever glad you did. I’m happy and a healthy lung cancer survivor, who will have even more time with my family and friends, and it’s all because I took charge of my lung health.”
Milli’s inspirational story is just one of many. To view more stories of those who’ve triumphed over lung cancer or been impacted by the “Saved By The Scan” campaign, visit SavedByTheScan.org/Stories.