(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)— Despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016, Gene Lawhon continued to live an active lifestyle— riding bikes, swimming, hiking, and golfing, but in March 2018, the cancer returned and another health risk was discovered.
"I had a heart catheterization and the result of that indicated that I needed not one, but six coronary bypasses," Lawhon said.
Lawhon's heart condition would have gone undiagnosed if it wasn't for a scan during the cancer treatment that signaled the issue with his heart.
I had no symptoms, very active physically, right up until that time," Lawhon said.
The doctors brought Lawhon in for another screening.
"I had the calcium scoring done and my results were extremely high, in the 4000s and anything over 400 is considered quite high," Lawhon said.
Cardiac scoring is a noninvasive, painless screening of the heart for calcium deposits in the coronary arteries, which are the blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the heart.
"It's used to kind of gauge the risk of having a heart attack," Dr. Brett Nielson said. "The more calcium there is in there, the more probability there is to having narrowing of those vessels."
The scoring has been around for some time, but more people are starting to use the screening—especially with certain health risks.
"If we can find these problems before they've become life-ending, then we're winning," Nielson said. "We're doing the job that we want to do."
Lawhon knew he had a family history of heart issues, but didn't think much of it himself because of his healthy and active lifestyle. However, he knows it's important to be informed when it comes to your heart health, especially when more than 500,000 people die every year as a result of coronary artery disease.
Lawhon is encouraging his family and others to get their own scoring done.
"I'm just a good example of don't take anything for granted," Lawhon said.