Lung Cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women, claiming more lives than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined - killing twice as many women as breast cancer. But, there is a stigma associated with lung cancer – that only those who smoke will get the disease, so in some way they are responsible for their illness. The truth is that 65 percent of lung cancer patients either never smoked or quit smoking years ago.
Another misconception about lung cancer is that there is not much hope once you are diagnosed. However, new research has provided amazing tools in the fight against lung cancer and is helping to change the outcomes, providing much needed hope for all diagnosed patients. In fact, there have been more advances made in the past two years than the past 10 years.
The good news is that treatment options for lung cancer patients are rapidly improving. In the last two years, more treatments have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of lung cancer than had been approved in the prior ten years.
"I really want to send this message home that lung cancer is a major public health problem There is new hope in the way we screen for lung cancer," said Dr. Christine Lovly, MD, PhD, a Vanderbilt assistant professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology." We catch it earlier when it's more treatable. We have new treatments for patients who have lung cancer like targeted therapies, immunotherapy and we have new ways to diagnosis and monitor lung cancer with things like liquid biopsy
There are some classic symptoms of lung cancer that, by themselves, are generally not a cause for worry. If you experience any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor to rule out lung cancer:
- Persistent cough (especially if you are coughing up rust-colored sputum)
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chest pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bone pain
If your doctor recommends you be tested for lung cancer, there are several options currently available for this evaluation. Your doctor will recommend the best test for you:
If you have any of the following lung cancer risk factors, you should see your doctor to determine if you need further screening for cancer.
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
- Exposure to radon gas
- Exposure to asbestos
- Exposure to other carcinogens
- Air pollution
- Arsenic in drinking water
- Previous radiation to lungs
- Personal or family history of lung cancer
Linnea was initially diagnosed with and treated for adult-onset asthma. But she didn't feel better. For several years, doctors struggled to diagnose her pain and thought it might be multiple sclerosis or hypochondria. Four years later, a bout of pneumonia finally led to a CT scan and a biopsy which revealed stage 1B lung cancer.
Linnea has since become a patient advocate and a lung cancer activist for LCFA. She has learned to live with lung cancer as a manageable, chronic condition, and uses a wicked sense of humor to face her diagnosis: instead of saying she's NED (No Evidence of Disease), Linnea says she's NDY (Not Dead Yet).
"If I didn't have an ALK mutation that had been identified I would be dead now," said Linnea. "For me the impact has been huge. One example I can give you is my youngest would have been 11 that summer when I was told I had three to five months to live. Almost eight years to the day being told that I got to watch him graduate as a high school student and that is something that I'm never ever thought I would get to see. For me the value is extraordinary. Here I am going on year 14 of a life I didn't think I was going to have."
Even with these new precise treatments providing so much hope to lung cancer patients – there are still many unanswered questions and these treatments do not work for all lung cancer patients. Researchers are on the precipice of lung cancer breakthroughs and Lung Cancer Foundation of America works to fund research for these lifesaving treatments. Your help is needed to make sure these advances in treatment come to fruition.
To learn more about lung cancer visit lcfamerica.org
About Christine Lovly, MD, PhD,
Christine Lovly, MD, PhD, a Vanderbilt assistant professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology and world renowned cancer researcher, recently received the Clinical Investigator Award from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. Lovly's research focuses on ALK+ lung cancer, where the ALK gene gets inappropriately activated in tumors.
About Linnea Olson
Linnea is a non-smoker and lung cancer outlier and survivor. Despite never having more than a 70% reduction in disease, she has learned to live with the disease as a manageable, chronic condition. Instead of NED (No Evidence of Disease), Linnea says she's NDY (Not Dead Yet). Her experience has made her a patient advocate and a lung cancer activist.
Interview/Photo Courtesy: Lung Cancer Foundation of America
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