A dermatologist uncovers stage IV lung cancer
A patient visits his dermatologist for a cyst and leaves with a lung cancer diagnosis.
A cyst on my back didn’t initially stop me from daily activities, but over time it got larger and more painful.
Eventually, I had to sleep on my side to avoid any discomfort or irritation. That’s when I scheduled an appointment with my general practitioner, who took one look at the cyst—nearly the size of a tennis ball sliced in half—and referred me to a dermatologist.
Dr. Brittany Smirnov listened intently and asked questions about my medical history and symptoms, including bladder cancer and a chronic cough. When she examined the cyst, I could tell it was serious, but she calmly explained the situation and next steps. She ordered a chest CT scan, which revealed stage IV metastatic lung cancer.
I wasn’t expecting such a dire discovery from a dermatology appointment, but Dr. Smirnov helped my partner and me work through the crucial details. It’s a scary diagnosis with intense treatment, even for someone who’s beaten cancer before. After 17 days of radiation, I did a year of chemotherapy and then underwent five more non-invasive radiation therapy treatments. It was a journey, but I am happy to report I’m now cancer free.
Since completing my chemotherapy, I see Dr. Smirnov every three months for a routine skin check. She’s been a bright spot during this trying time. Had it not been for her, I would not be here today.
The dermatologist's perspective
“I went into medicine because my father had skin cancer and his dermatologist was a huge influence in his life. I wanted to change peoples’ lives for the better, which sometimes means discovering bad news, as was the case with Richard. I’m proud of the cross-disciplinary team that sprang into action after his diagnosis to find a life-saving treatment that worked.”
─ Brittany Smirnov, DO, FAAD, Dermatology Associates of the Palm Beaches
Patient & physician stories
Learn how board-certified dermatologists have helped patients with serious skin disease and collaborated with other doctors to enhance patient care.Browse all stories