Targeted Radiation Makes Difference in Lung Cancer Battle

Don Williams, 67, is on the survivor side of a lung cancer battle, thanks to the expertise of his medical teams at Memorial Regional Cancer Center and SIU Medicine.

“I am grateful to be alive,” he said. “Early detection is key. I was fortunate my doctor had me go through that low-dose CT scan. It made all the difference.”

Don had a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but his shortness of breath became progressively worse. His primary care physician sent him to a low-dose CT screening program for lung cancer at Memorial in spring 2017. The screening program determined he had stage 1 lung cancer, but fortunately, it hadn’t spread to other parts of his body.

Don immediately met with SIU’s Stephen Hazelrigg, MD, who determined he was not a candidate for surgery or biopsy. Hazelrigg referred him to P.J. Nanavati, MD, radiation oncologist, who recommended stereotactic body radiation therapy.

Don completed five targeted radiation therapy treatments to his left lung at Memorial Regional Cancer Center.

“Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is focused, high-dose conformal radiation,” Nanavati said. “This type of treatment requires a high degree of anatomical targeting and must include precision, accuracy and localization of the tumor. It worked well in Mr. Williams’ case because it is very effective in treating smaller tumors. When surgery is not an option, SBRT gives us another tool to treat these cancers. With the precision and accuracy of SBRT, side effects are minimized for the patient.”

Don is now retired after 20 years working as an auto mechanic at Firestone Tire in Springfield. He walks three times a week at the local YMCA and hopes to add biking to his exercise routine. His last checkup showed no cancer.

“The treatment and the radiation therapists were great,” Don said. “I was concerned when I first got there, but they were really friendly and upbeat. My experience at MMC has been nothing but great.”

Memorial Medical Center will host a free community event to inform and educate people about lung cancer on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation. “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer” begins at 6 p.m. in the Curtis Theatre Classroom (2A) on the MCLI’s second floor.

The two-hour program will feature Traves Crabtree, MD, and Stephen Hazelrigg, MD, both with SIU Medicine, and P.J. Nanavati, MD, with University Radiologists. A custom-made lung model with camera will be set up for participants to visualize what takes place during lung cancer surgery.

The program will also honor people living with lung cancer and those who have been lost to the disease. To register, visit or call 217-788-3333.

Learn more about lung screening available at:

Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital 
Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville
Memorial  Medical Center in Springfield
Taylorville Memorial Hospital