ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — World Lung Cancer Day—August 1—recognizes the leading cause of cancer deaths among adults. The initiative urges everyone to learn about the risk factors for the disease and highlights the importance of early detection through lung cancer screening.
“Stopping smoking is probably the single best thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer,” said Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Albany Medical Center, Dr. Thomas Fabian. He says there’s no sure way to prevent lung cancer, but not smoking is the best way to reduce your risk.
That said, he says 30% of his patients are lifelong non-smokers. “Number two on the list is radon exposure, asbestos occurs, in our veterans, Agent Orange exposure is a considerable risk and basically any inhaled particulates.”
The first signs can be vague—weight loss, a lack of energy, or loss of interest in food. Others are more obvious. “A chronic cough should be evaluated by a physician, coughing of blood is something that’s always abnormal and needs to be investigated,” said Dr. Fabian.
The average diagnosis age is 70, and historically men had higher rates of lung cancer with a lag in smoking development among women. “But unfortunately, women have caught up to men and present with just as many lung cancers as men,” Fabian said.
Increased access to CT scans can catch tumors in their early stages when they’re treatable through surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation are options for higher-stage tumors that have spread outside the lungs. Immunotherapy, or targeted therapy, involves analyzing the genetic sequence of the tumor.
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve made remarkable improvements in those patients as well with identification of factors within the tumor or cells themselves that allow point-specific therapy,” Dr. Fabien explained. “Now what we can do is target those specific mutations that are identified in the specimens and that can direct therapies that weren’t available to us just ten years ago.”
With fewer young people smoking, Dr. Fabian says it will still be many years before we see a reduction in lung cancer. “Whether or not vaping comes into play, that’s unknown, but right now with the history of smoking in our aging population, there’s a lot of new lung cancers out there and really will be for the next 20 to 30 years.”
Lung cancer screening is covered by insurance if you meet the criteria—you must be 50 or older, have smoked for more than 30 years, and have done so within the last 15 years. The NY Quits Hotline offers assistance for those who want to quit smoking. Call (866) 697-8487.