Pulmonary rehab for lung cancer patients


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the U.S. according to the American Lung Association. 

For those going through treatment or who have finished, taking part in pulmonary rehab is beneficial. 

Monica Westhoff is wearing turquoise to raise awareness of lung cancer. She was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in June of 2015.

“Maybe just prior to the diagnosis, I had been losing some weight which wasn’t typical for me, and that maybe should’ve been a tip that something was going on with my health but I was just happy, heck, lose a couple of pounds? Who cares you know,” Westhoff said. 

Unexplained weight loss is one of many symptoms of lung cancer. 

Respiratory therapy specialist Darcy Ellefson lost her mother-in-law and sister-in-law to lung cancer, and is now urging those at risk to get screened. 

“If someone gets their screening done and gets it diagnosed in early stage the survival rate goes up to about 56 percent. So the key to survival of lung cancer is early detection,” Ellefson said. 

Ellefson says that’s compared to a 5 percent survival rate when found at stage 4. She says one step lung cancer patients can take to improve their quality of life is pulmonary rehab. 

“I see people come in, and maybe have just been through chemo or radiation, they’re not feeling so good, and then they’re out running around living their lives,” Ellefson said. 

Ellefson guides the pulmonary rehab participants in various exercises, ranging from walking on the treadmill to lifting weights. 

“You know you really can’t do too much to build up your lung tissue but by having the rest of your body be more strong, then that supports the lungs, and helps you so that doing daily activities isn’t so difficult,” Westhoff said. 

When Monica started exercising she was only able to go about two minutes, and now she’s up to a full 30. 

Westhoff quit smoking about a month before her diagnosis and hopes others will do the same.  

“Everyone that has been at risk for lung cancer deserves, and needs to get the early screening,” Ellefson said.

For more information about lung cancer, click here.

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