The mother of one of my caregiver friends was diagnosed with lung cancer after radiologists found a small spot on her upper-right lung following a routine CT scan. The woman has smoked for more than 64 years, and she was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) a number of years ago. She takes medications and uses inhalers to help her breathing.
Because lung cancer was detected early, the woman was able to begin lung cancer treatment that included radiation and a clinical trial involving an infusion once per month for three years. Fortunately, the lung cancer was successfully eradicated, and my friend’s mom continues the infusion therapy in hopes it may help others who are diagnosed with lung cancer in the future.
This is a successful story about one case of lung cancer. However, there are many more cases of this disease that have not had successful outcomes. My friend’s mom serves as an example that surviving lung cancer begins with early detection and treatment.
According to Dr. Hiral Shah at Clearwater Radiation and Oncology, “Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, and it’s estimated that one in every 16 people will develop lung cancer in their lifetime. The most concerning fact about this disease is that early symptoms can often go unnoticed or misdiagnosed until the later stages when treatment options are limited. However, if detected early enough, there is a much better chance of survival.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States among men and women, and it surpasses the number of breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer deaths combined.
There are two types of lung cancer: small-cell (SCLC) and non-small cell (NSCLC). NSCLC accounts for 85% of lung cancer cases, making it the most common. Adenocarcinoma is the primary type of NSCLC, and it begins in the cells lining the air sacs in the lungs. Other types include squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and bronchoalveolar cell carcinoma.
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, and exposure to second-hand smoke increases a person’s risk of developing lung cancer. Stopping smoking can prevent the development of lung cancer, but even former smokers are at greater risk of the disease than people who have never smoked.
Additional risk factors for lung cancer include exposure to certain chemicals or substances like asbestos, radon gas, and air pollution.
“Early diagnosis is critical for lung cancer patients because it allows for early treatment. Early treatment can improve survival rates and quality of life for patients. Early diagnosis also allows patients to be enrolled in clinical trials, which can give them access to the latest treatments,” Dr. Shah said.
The problem is lung cancer has a very high mortality rate because it is often not diagnosed until it has already spread to other areas of the body making it more difficult to treat.
The primary reasons why early detection of lung cancer is so critical include:
- The earlier lung cancer is detected, the less likely it is to spread, improving the prognosis and chances of successful treatment.
- Early detection allows for less invasive and more effective treatment options.
- Early diagnosis provides patients a better chance to participate in clinical trials for new and promising treatments that are only available to patients with early-stage lung cancer.
- Early diagnosis gives patients more time to spend with family, make important decisions about care options, and time to enjoy life.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should consult with a physician as soon as possible:
- Persistent cough that gets worse over time
- Chest pain
- Shortness of Breath
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Swelling of the neck and face
- Bone pain
- Neurological changes that cause dizziness, seizure, and confusion
Dr. Shah concluded, “Early diagnosis of lung cancer is crucial for survival rates. The earlier the stage at which it is detected, the higher chance of full recovery and improved outcomes. Effective screening tests such as low-dose CT scans can help diagnose lung cancer in its earliest stages when symptoms are not yet present and treatment options are more successful. If you have a family history or other risk factors associated with lung cancer, make sure to talk to your doctor about getting screened so that if there is an issue, it can be caught early on and treated appropriately.”
August 1st is World Lung Cancer Day, so please review this information carefully and consult with your doctor about lung cancer screening options if you are at risk of developing the disease. Early detection could save your life giving you more quality time to spend with loved ones.
The caregivers at Home Helpers are highly trained to help clients who are battling lung cancer or undergoing treatment for the disease by providing transportation assistance to and from appointments, as well as in-home care services like personal care, companionship, homemaking services, specialized care, and so much more. I gladly offer a FREE Consultation to discuss specific needs and create a custom care plan to help make life easier for aging adults with lung cancer in the Clearwater area.
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Clearwater Radiation and Oncology,