(WGGB/WSHM) – Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in United States, according to the American Cancer Society, but is there a way to detect it early?
Dr. Timothy Mullett, chair of the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons in Lexington, KY, spoke with Western Mass News to discuss screening options that can detect lung cancer at its earliest stages when it is most treatable here”
Tell us a little bit about who is at most for developing lung cancer
Mullett: “I think we we certainly understand that lung cancer has several risk factors that are associated with it. Most dominant of these is, of course, tobacco use. Typically, personal cigarette smoking and long-term use of that is higher risk. There are other risk factors involved, which is radon exposure in the home or the school, perhaps asbestos esposure, heavy metal exposure from industry, and also, those people that have extensive lung disease, such as emphysema, may be at high risk as well. So, these are people we want to pay particular attention to and so I think the important message is anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.”
Anyone can get screened for lung cancer. Is there a specific time that would be best to do so?
Mullett: “Well, I think for those people at highest risk, we typically think of 50-plus-15. If you’re 50 years of age and you have at least a 15 year history of tobacco use, then you are eligable for lung cancer screening and you should be talking to your doctor about this. Lung cancer screening can save lives, lung cancer screening is easy to do. It’s a low dose CT scan, you can lay down, and get the scan done within about 15 seconds with no needles or injections and so, it’s something that should be done every year to get the best results and find these cancers early if you’re at high risk.”
How would you best promote those screenings, specially for someone who might be reluctant to get that screening for lung cancer?
Mullett: “There is certainly a stigma with a diagnosis like this and we want to make sure we break down those barriers and talk about this and so, I think it’s important for patients to be comfortable talking with their doctors if they feel like they may be at risk and the doctors should certainly be aware of these indications for lung cancer screening. I think it’s also important that there are some internal barriers that we may have, that patients may have had experiences in the past with family or friends, or colleagues that have been diagnosed, and watched them go through treatment for lung cancer years ago. and today, we are treating it differently than we did before. This is not your grandfather’s lung cancer. We are treating this with more effective treatment, certainly with screening it early, can get you into surgery typically with small incisions, often with a video camera or surgical robot, for being able to remove early and with less of an impact on patients, and even if it’s found later, our treatments today are more effective than ever and using targeted therapies. These treatments can be much more effective than we have seen before. Even a pill, some of these patients take for these cancers, have had an improved opportunity for survival, so I think it’s a message of hope. It’s a message we can prevent this disease by helping people that are at-risk to quit tobacco use and we have ways to be able to help you with that. We also have a message of hope that we can find this cancer early if we get the right patients in for screening and detect this in a stage that can be treated with less of an impact and even if it is found later, we have a message of hope that these patients can have better outcomes because the treatments are more effective and have less side effects and so we can get more patients safetly through this treatment and see better outcome on the other side.”
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