It’s very difficult to watch someone we love slowly die from lung cancer – or any kind of cancer. It’s also hard to watch loved ones puffing on cigarettes and ignoring the harm they are doing to their own bodies.
Every November – which is Lung Cancer Awareness month – the American Lung Association sponsors a free event with the Marshall Cancer Care Center to share information on this leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Frankly Speaking About Lung Cancer will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at noon. Featured speaker is Dr. Jonathan Storey, hematology and oncology physician, who will talk about the latest treatments for lung cancer.
Sign up soon
The event includes lunch at no cost but registration is required. Please call 256-571-8000 to reserve your seat before Nov. 9.
Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. The American Cancer Society estimates new cases of lung cancer for 2018 at about 234,030 or 121,680 in men and 112,350 in women. Predicted deaths are expected at more than 154,000, which breaks down to slightly more men than women.
Early stage lung
cancer can be cured
Despite the very serious prognosis of lung cancer, some people can be cured in the earlier stages. More than 430,000 people alive today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point. That’s why it is so important to get screened.
”You can cure early lung cancer,” said Dr. Manganaris of Pulmonary & Sleep Associates of Marshall County, which has offices in Marshall North and South.
Many people who went through a lung cancer screening program available at both hospitals have had surgical resections and now are in full remission, he said.
A lung cancer screening with a low dose CT scan takes only about 15 minutes, uses less radiation that traditional CT and requires no contrast. Medicare covers one scan per year for Medicare beneficiaries who meet all of the following criteria:
• Age 55-77 and are either current smokers or have quit smoking within the last 15 years
• Have a tobacco smoking history of at least 30 “pack years” (an average of one pack a day for 30 years)
• Receive a written order from a physician or qualified non-physician practitioner that meets certain requirements
“Medicare and Blue Cross now cover lung cancer screening because there has been a 20 percent reduction in lung cancer death due to early detection,” said Dr. Manganaris, who has screened hundreds of people. “It is very beneficial for those who qualify.”
It’s a matter of life and death
The bottom line is this: do not wait. If you qualify under the above guidelines, schedule a screening immediately. It very likely could make the difference between life and death for you.
Medicare’s intention in covering the test was not only to promote lung cancer screening but also to counsel patients on the dangers of smoking. Dr. Manganaris offers smoking cessation assistance that includes counseling, medication and/or patches. The only requirement for treatment is the desire to quit.
Recent advancements detect cancer early without surgery
New technology for lung cancer detection and treatment available at both hospitals include:
• Endobronchial ultrasound or EBUS, which is a technique to obtain tissue or fluid samples from the lungs and surrounding lymph nodes without conventional surgery. EBUS is a probe at the end of a scope enabling doctors to visualize the lymph nodes and take samples. The purpose is to determine the stage of cancer. Patients with advanced tumors are not surgical candidates.
• Low dose CT scan - special x-ray tests that produce cross-sectional images of the body and offer a clearer picture than a traditional chest x-ray
• PET scan – an imaging test that assists in the diagnosis of cancerous lesions
• CT guided biopsy – uses real-time CT images to ensure biopsy samples are accurately taken from the desired part of the lung.
The unfortunate reality with lung cancer is that by the time someone notices symptoms, it means the cancer is advanced and it may be too late for treatment. The whole purpose of lung cancer screening is to screen patients who do not have any symptoms, who are feeling well but have smoked for a long time.
Symptoms of advanced lung cancer are:
• coughing up blood
• worsened shortness of breath
• swelling of the lower extremities
“There are many treatments for COPD and for ex-smokers who are symptomatic,” Dr. Manganaris said. “Many patients think there is no help available, but there are many new medications and treatments.”
For information on lung screening or smoking cessation, Pulmonary & Sleep Associates can be reached at (256) 571-8807.