How One Woman Went from Avid Smoker to Dedicated Cancer Screening Patient

Nov Lung StoryMitzi Barney is certainly no stranger to the state of Montana. She grew up in Glendive, where she spent over 30 years of her life, but has since moved to Billings, where she spends 6 months of the year. When the weather turns cold and harsh, she turns her sail towards Florida and its warmer weather, but not before ensuring that she has received all of her cancer screenings.

She sadly watched her father, brother and sister all pass away from the terrible disease that cancer is. Additionally, another of her sisters was diagnosed with cancer, but is now cancer free. Mitzi herself was an avid smoker during her younger days, but after losing her close family, she decided it was time to make a change.

“I smoked for nearly 30 years,” Barney said. “I started in college because you could smoke cigarettes at your desk.”

Working as a Judicial Aid for the District Court for 28 years around Glendive, she always made it a priority towards the end of her career to travel to Billings for lung screenings each year. Now, she has been doing it for the past several years and does not plan on stopping.

“It’s so easy! You just have to make an appointment and show up,” she said. “I make sure I get checked every year for every type of cancer.”

Barney highly recommends getting screened early and believes that St. Vincent Healthcare is the place to do it. She noted that from the time it takes her to check in until she checks out, most times it only takes 10 minutes. In particular, one of the most important reasons she keeps coming back to St. Vincent for treatment is because she enjoys the staff, as they make jokes and make the screening process easy, enjoyable and relaxing.

“From the person at the front counter, to the professional performing the screening, they make my experience personal and I can always tell that they actually care.”

Lung cancer has a poor overall prognosis, with a 5-year survival of only 18%, but these poor outcomes occur largely because most diagnoses are made in advanced stages. It causes the most cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for 1.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths annually. Early detection and awareness can help save lives.

Screening is not a one-time test. In order for it to work, you have to come every year for as long as your doctor recommends and or that you meet the screening criteria, so that any cancer that may be small and slow growing will be found as early as possible.

If you currently smoke, it is still important to consider quitting. You might think it doesn’t matter, but there are lots of benefits to quitting, even now. Say goodbye to smoking forever. Quitting is difficult. That’s why smokers need Freedom from Smoking -- this course is sponsored by St. Vincent Healthcare and the American Lung Association. For more information, please contact the course educator, Mandy Frickel at 406-238-6428.


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