Lung tumors can often be biopsied without surgery unless lymph nodes are involved.
In that case, the procedure needs to be more invasive and recovery takes much longer, but now doctors at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are using a newer approach that's much easier on the patient.
"Kids grown up and second marriages for both of us and we've been at this one for thirty-three years. It's just wonderful," said Margie Clemente.
And now Margie and husband Art Clemente are facing their biggest challenge yet.
"You can see this very large abnormality, this white spot," said doctors about a tumor detected on Margie's lung.
"I smoked way longer than she did, and smoked way more than she did. She's got it and I haven't and I kind of would swap if I could," said Art.
"First we have to diagnose her lesion, which is likely related to lung cancer or some form of lung cancer," said Dr. Jason Chien, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Instead of making an incision, doctors plan to go through Margie's mouth and down her windpipe. The first scope will biopsy the tumor. Next to go down: a newer scope called an endobronchial ultrasound. It offers a much more precise way to assess the lymph nodes. This lets doctors know what they're dealing with so they can better know how to treat it.
"Patients recover within two hours after the procedure, much lower cost and much lower risk in terms of adverse events," said Chien.
Margie quit smoking 16 years ago, hasn't had any symptoms other than a cough that started a month ago.
"Everybody is shocked, absolutely shocked, just stunned because of all the people they know, I'm the only one that's so healthy," said Margie.
The Clementes are hoping doctors caught it in time.
"There are blessings if we look really hard," said Margie.
In many cases the e-bus method, as it's called, provides a better diagnosis than surgery, but it also requires much more skill on the part of the doctor.
Be sure to join me tonight at for an encore presentation of Clearing the Air: The truth about lung cancer at 8 p.m. on KING 5.