Bayview marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 12:15

Early detection of lung cancer key to survival

by Nicole Rodman

    November — the air turns colder and thoughts turn to preparing for the holidays.
    But before you break out the turkeys and Christmas lights, take a moment to consider that November is also Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
    Though less well-known than October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month,  Lung Cancer Awareness Month is no less important.
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “more people in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer.”
    The most common cause of cancer death for both men and women, lung cancer has a 5-year survival rate of just 15 percent.
    In 2010 (the most current year that CDC statistics are available), 201,144 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States.
    Of those diagnosed, 158,248 people (or about 78.6 percent of those diagnosed) died of the disease.
    While the numbers seem grim, lung cancer can be cured if caught early enough.
    To this end, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center is spending November raising awareness of lung cancer and encouraging those most at risk to get screened.
    According to Dr. Phillip Dennis, director of Bayview’s Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center and department chair of oncology at Bayview, people most at risk for lung cancer include heavy smokers or former smokers (those who smoke a pack or more of cigarettes a day) and people exposed to diesel fumes, asbestos or radon.
    In addition, people with a family history of other cancers, such as head, neck, kidney, bladder, pancreatic and breast cancers, may be at increased risk.
    While he acknowledged that he has never seen any hard data for Dundalk in particular, Dennis noted that the area does seem to have more than its share of lung cancer cases.
    “It’s my perception that there is a higher rate of lung cancer than one might expect in the area,” he explained.
    According to Dennis, the most important tool to treat and, hopefully, cure an individual’s lung cancer is early detection.
    Getting a lung cancer screening can catch the disease in its earliest stages, before any symptoms appear.
    By the time symptoms (which include chronic cough, weight loss, fatigue, chest discomfort and shortness of breath) occur, the cancer is usually too advanced to be cured.

Dennis encourages everyone ages 55 to 80 who has smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or more to be screened.
    People who don’t exactly fit these criteria but who are smokers or have a family history of lung cancer are encouraged to seek information on whether lung cancer screening may be right for them.
    Screening involves annual low-dose CT scans.
    For more information on lung cancer screening at Bayview, or to schedule an appointment, call 410-955-LUNG (5864).
    As Dennis pointed out, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force gave lung cancer screening a grade of B for overall effectiveness.
    “By law,  Medicare has to cover lung cancer screening because it got a grade of B,” Dennis noted, adding that private insurance companies will likely soon follow Medicare’s lead and cover screening as well.
    “Screening saves lives,” Dennis emphasized.
    For individuals wondering if they should get screened for lung cancer, Bayview will offer a free program called “Is Lung Cancer Screening Right for Me? A Discussion About Individualized Risk, Screening and Prevention” at Bayview’s Asthma & Allergy Center Auditorium on Monday, Nov. 18.
    Dinner will be offered at 6 p.m., followed by the program at 6:30 p.m. Parking for attendees will be available in the Mid-Campus Visitor Parking Lot.
    A program for lung cancer patients and their families, “Living With Lung Cancer: New Discoveries and Approaches,” will be offered in the same location on Thursday, Nov. 7.
    Dinner will be held at 6 p.m., followed by the program at 6:30 p.m.
    To register for either event, call 410-955-LUNG.
    If caught early enough, lung cancer can be removed surgically, followed usually by chemotherapy.
    Late stage treatments — which typically focus on prolonging life rather than curing the cancer — include radiation, chemotherapy and, sometimes, surgery.
    While early detection of lung cancer is key, steps can be taken to minimize the risk of developing the disease at all.
    Of course, quitting smoking is the number one way to avoid lung cancer.
    As the American Lung Association notes, “smoking ... contributes to 80 percent and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and men, respectively.”
    According to Dennis, while there are currently no approved lung cancer prevention therapies, trials are ongoing.
    For more information on lung cancer, or to register for November’s events, contact the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at 410-955-LUNG.