Lung Cancer Awareness Month educates, urges action against the disease

Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.
Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.(Live 5)
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 5:29 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. Every year, more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

About 218,500 people in the United States are told they have lung cancer each year, and about 142,000 people die from this disease. That’s according to the CDC, which also says nearly nine out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking cigarettes. And people who have never smoked but are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of getting lung cancer by 20% to 30%.

Different people have different symptoms of lung cancer. Most people with lung cancer don’t have symptoms until the cancer is advanced.

Carmichael Imaging Center offers lung screenings that can detect lung cancer before someone has symptoms. This screening is done using low-dose computerized tomography (LDCT), which allows testing with minimal exposure to radiation and provides a detailed picture of the lungs. It’s non-invasive, with no needle sticks, no need to even change clothes, and it helps find lung cancer in an early, more treatable stage.

You should consider being screened if you have all three of these risk factors:

  • 50-80 years old (Medicare and Medicare supplements cover through age 77) and
  • A current smoker or a former smoker who quit less than 15 years ago and
  • A smoking history of at least 20 pack-years (this means 1 pack per day for 20 years or 0.5 pack per day for 40 years, etc.) The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the higher your risk for lung cancer.

The screening is free for people who have previously smoked, or the $99 self-pay option if insurance does not cover it. Call 387-1100 (option 6) to schedule your screening. A physician’s order is required. The results will be sent to your doctor.

If everyone considered high risk for lung cancer were screened, about 25,000 lives would be saved.

Treatments are getting better for lung cancer, but it still kills more men and women than any other type of cancer. The Montgomery Cancer Center offers two different treatments.

A navigational bronchoscopy uses a special bronchoscope to examine and treat lesions in areas of the lungs that are inaccessible using a regular bronchoscope. Navigational bronchoscopy combines electromagnetic navigation with real-time computed tomography (CT) images to create a three-dimensional map of the lungs. Doctors are then able to use this map to guide the navigational bronchoscope, which includes an extended working channel and guide wire, to difficult-to-access areas of the lungs to take a biopsy or help guide radiation therapy directly to a hard-to-reach lesion.

Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) is a procedure that uses ultrasound technology in combination with bronchoscopy to visualize the walls of the airways and surrounding structures. EBUS allows doctors to locate hard-to-reach tumors and small-cell lung cancer. EBUS can also take a biopsy from tissue in the lungs or the surrounding lymph nodes in the chest.

If diagnosed at an earlier stage, lung cancer patients have a 13 times higher likelihood of living for five years.

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