Fighting Lung Cancer Earlier, Better Outcomes
November is Lung Cancer Awareness month – a time health care providers bring the number one cause-related killer in the United States into the public conversation to learn more about what we can do to prevent, detect and treat this deadly illness to help save lives. The fact remains that lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined. Each year, more than a quarter of a million Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer and each year it claims the lives of 165,000 people. As our population ages, cases of lung cancer continue to grow, unfortunately.
However, we can do something about this trend and that comes in early detection. Did you know by the time 75 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed they are stage III or stage IV? Lung cancer begins with changes of the cells that line the anterior of the lungs. The cancer usually starts as a small pulmonary nodule that can be located anywhere in the lung. These nodules can differentiate to the major types of lung cancer such as adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma and small cell carcinoma. The good news? Prospective observational studies have shown that a large percentage of lung cancer cases detected by CT screening are early stage tumors, which have a favorable prognosis.
Who should be screened for lung cancer and how often? Based on the new guidelines that were mandated by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), patients who meet the criteria for lung cancer screening should be screened annually until their lung cancer risk decreases. To qualify for lung cancer screening, patients have to meet the following criteria: be a current or former smoker between the ages of 55 and 74, have a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years and have no history of lung cancer.
Utica Park Clinic pulmonologist Dr. Hassan Abouhouli talks to his patients about the safety of screening at the Lung Center @ Hillcrest. “Lung cancer screening is fairly safe,” he adds. “We use low dose radiation CT scans that have minimal effect on your body. If you chose not do the screening, you may need to discuss other less effective methods with your physician such as: frequent chest x-rays, self-monitoring and sputum cytology.”
Based on the screening results, Dr. Abouhouli says patients may still need to be screened in the future. “A ‘negative’ result means that there were no abnormal findings at this time and on this CT scan,” says Dr. Abouhouli. “It does not mean you absolutely do not have lung cancer and that you will never get lung cancer. Your doctor should discuss when and if you should be tested again. Meanwhile, A ‘positive’ lung cancer screening does not necessarily mean you have lung cancer. Based on your clinical presentation, further lab testing, serial imaging or lung biopsy may be required.”
Screening for lung cancer can reduce your risk of dying from lung cancer by 20 percent. Dr Abouhouli says. “It can also improve quality of life by reducing fear and anxiety for patients who learn they do not have lung cancer,” he shares.
The best way to prevent lung cancer is never to smoke or stop smoking if you do. There are support programs available to help smokers quit and your health care provider can share more information with you.
The Lung Center @ Hillcrest invites you to join us for Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Thursday, November 20 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Click here for more information: //shinealightonlungcancer.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1...