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Published on November 10, 2017

Lung Cancer Symptoms, Screening and Treatment

Lung CancerSigns, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Symptoms may include:

  • unexplained cough, especially with blood
  • unexplained chest pain
  • unexplained weight loss

However, these can also be symptoms of other illnesses. Unfortunately, symptoms of lung cancer usually do not appear until the disease is already in an advanced, non-curable stage.

85% of lung cancer patients are smokers or former smokers. If you smoke, STOP now! Also, be sure to avoid exposure to second hand smoke and other known carcinogens. Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in this country, and is the leading cause among non-smokers. It is also important to become educated on other risk factors of lung cancer and to consult with your physician about getting screened if you fall into the high-risk group.

Dana Herndon, thoracic oncology nurse navigator at Cone Health Cancer Center and a facilitator for the QuitSmart smoking cessation program, spoke on Fox 8 House Call about the signs and risk factors for lung cancer.

Treatment

Research efforts for early and late stage lung cancer are focused on developing treatments that can improve patient survival rates. Surgery remains the main option for treating stages I & II lung cancer. For stage III cancer, and situations in which the patient is unable to be operated on, the disease is treated with stereotactic radiation. This form of treatment functions similar to surgery, as it delivers a concentrated dose of radiation to the targeted area to eliminate the cancerous tumor.

For stage IV cancer, chemotherapy is the standard of care for a majority of the cases. Yet, immunotherapy is another treatment option for patients, which involves an infusion that stimulates immune cells to fight the cancer. In addition, new target agents have been developed to treat patients who have markers for certain gene mutations, and have shown very successful outcomes. As more and more gene mutations are found to be linked to lung cancer, research efforts have been poured into developing more target agents to treat the particular mutations.

New immunotherapies, focused on using antibodies to stop cancer cells from growing, also offer promise for treating advanced lung cancer.

Dr. Mohamed K. Mohamed, oncology and hematology specialist at Cone Health Cancer Center and the Director of the Thoracic Oncology program at Cone Health Cancer Centers, spoke on Fox 8 House Call about advances in lung cancer treatment.

Screening

The overall five-year survival rate with a lung cancer diagnosis is only 15 percent, however, if diagnosed in stage I, the five-year survival rate increases to 80 percent. Low dose CT screening is the only proven, research supported, method of detecting lung cancer at an early and treatable stage, which is why Cone Health has developed a screening program for patients in the community.

Individuals who are eligible for the program must:

  • be between the ages of 55 to 77
  • smoke or quit smoking within the last 15 years
  • have a 30-pack year history of smoking (one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years)

The scan itself is quick, only takes about 10 minutes, and you can have your results in forty-eight hours or less. Screening centers are located in Greensboro, High Point, Kernersville, Reidsville and Burlington. To learn more, call 336-547-1801.

If you smoke, you should think of screenings as part of your yearly preventive health maintenance. Even if you have smoked all of your life, you still deserve to get the care you need to maintain your quality of life.

Sarah Groce, adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner and Cone Health’s Lung Cancer Screening Nurse Navigator, spoke on Fox 8 House Call about the importance of lung cancer Screening.