NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and surgery to remove the tumors often leaves the patient with impaired lung function.

But now, tiny coils are helping patients keep more of their healthy lung.

Criminal defense attorney David Sherman is fighting his toughest and most surprising case yet — lung cancer.

“Never even touched a cigarette in my life except to pick up cigarette butts that others have thrown on the floor,” Sherman says.

A nagging cough made his doctor suspicious.

“They found three tumors in my lungs. I wanted to know if I’ve got cancer and if I did, I want to get it out of me soon as I can before it spreads.”

To remove those tumors, doctors at Cleveland Clinic inserted tiny lung coils to mark suspicious nodules.

One end of the coil is placed on each side of the nodule to help guide the surgeon, then a specialized CT scan is used, allowing for extreme precision in removing the tumors.

“We can actually, in the operating room, perform an X-ray and see exactly where that coil is and take out the nodule by taking out the coil,” said Dr. Daniel Raymond.

Surgeons are thus able to save lung tissue that would have otherwise been removed along with the tumor.

“Rather than cutting out an entire lobe or potentially even an entire lung, we can just take out a small bit of tissue, and that leaves them with a lot more function,” said Dr. Jason Lempel.

Sherman’s doctor says he has a 90 percent chance of being cured. Right now, he’s breathing easy and loving life.

Many experts recommend that longtime smokers have screening CT scans for early detection of lung cancer. Then, it’s important to be treated by an experienced medical team that regularly manages lung cancer patients.

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