Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung Cancer awareness efforts focus on smoking prevention

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Lung Cancer Awareness Month is dedicated to educating the public about the prevalence of the disease in the United States, and providing resources on prevention, screening and treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), lung cancer will kill more than 140,000 people in 2019, making it by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. It is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer). For men, prostate cancer is the only cancer more common, while in women breast cancer is more common.

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. The ACS reports 80% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking.1 However, non-smokers can also develop the disease. This could be caused by exposure to radon, secondhand smoke, air pollution, asbestos, diesel exhaust or other chemicals.

PREVENTION IS KEY

With such a high percentage of lung cancer cases linked to smoking, efforts to reduce the prevalence of the disease are largely focused on kicking the tobacco habit.

“Smoking continues to be the #1 most preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S.,” says Kerri Thompson, Public Health Educator for the Knox County Health Department (KCHD) in Knoxville, Tenn. “It kills so many people and it’s something that can be prevented.”

Thompson spearheads KCHD’s tobacco prevention programs, which focus on three main areas: Youth Prevention, Secondhand Smoke Reduction and Smoking Cessation (quitting). Through educational programs designed to teach children about the dangers of smoking, KCHD hopes to dramatically reduce tobacco product usage in our next generation.

“We’re trying to change the trajectory so, hopefully, we can have an impact on lung cancer,” Thompson notes. “Having (our youth) not use tobacco or not be addicted to nicotine in the first place is really key to addressing the huge impact that smoking has on society.”

Knox County’s programs aimed at youth education actually have a trickle-down effect, impacting its Secondhand Smoke Reduction and Smoking Cessation efforts, as well. Children tend to share resources they receive in school with their parents in hopes they will then try to quit. One of these resources is the Tennessee Tobacco Quitline. This is a free service that offers personalized support from counselors who are trained to help you kick the habit. More resources to help you quit smoking can be found at Smokefree.gov.

When it comes to quitting, Thompson says relapse is common, so persistence is very important. “When someone quits smoking, on average it takes seven to 10 times for someone to quit for good. Many people think since they’ve been smoking for years, the damage is already done, so what’s the point in quitting.” However, if there’s one thing she hopes people take away from Knox County’s education and prevention efforts, it’s this – “It’s never too late to quit.”

LUNG CANCER SCREENING CAN SAVE LIVES

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), risk factors for lung cancer include tobacco use, secondhand smoke, family history, HIV infection and environmental risks like exposure to asbestos, radon  or other substances. If you believe you may be at risk for lung cancer, you should start by speaking to your doctor. A general practitioner can perform an assessment, then offer advice for your next step. This could be a referral to a pulmonologist or oncologist, or a prescription for nicotine replacement therapy. Since early detection is so important, at-risk individuals may also benefit from a lung cancer screening.

The NCI says the most effective type of screening is a low-dose spiral Computed Tomography (CT) scan. In its National Lung Screening Trial, the NCI studied people between 55 and 74 years old who had smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or more. They compared low-dose spiral CT scans with another type of screening, chest x-rays. Researchers observed a 20% lower risk of dying from lung cancer in people who received low-dose spiral CT scan screenings.2

Fortunately, there are resources available to help people get screened. The American Lung Association (ALA) offers an online quiz to help you determine whether you are at risk. The ALA can also help you find information about insurance coverage and screening facilities near you.

In an effort to make lung cancer screenings more accessible, CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn. brings low-dose CT scans into the community with its Breathe Easy mobile lung CT coach. The bus serves counties from three different states in the Southeast.

PROTON THERAPY AS A TREATMENT

Given the serious prognosis of lung cancer, it’s important to evaluate all your treatment options before making any decisions. Treatment for lung cancer is based mainly on the type (non-small cell vs. small cell) and the stage of the cancer. Other factors like a person’s health and lung function should also be considered. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Doctors and scientists have been studying the results of proton therapy in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). One study in particular showed that patients with Stage 3 NSCLC who were treated with proton therapy experienced lower rates of lung and esophagus inflammation compared to patients treated with traditional (x-ray/IMRT) radiation.3

Proton therapy for lung cancer treatment is non-invasive and usually painless. Physicians provide doses of radiation to specific areas, controlling the depth of the protons emitted and reducing the impact on the surrounding tissue. Provision CARES Proton Therapy uses a technique known as pencil beam scanning, which provides precise dose of radiation to targeted areas, resulting in a decreased risk of side effects. Proton therapy decreases the risk of damage to healthy tissue and organs surrounding the cancer. This is because the unique physical properties of protons allow the radiation dose to better conform to your cancer, avoiding unnecessary radiation to nearby areas. This is especially important for lung cancer treatment because the tumor may be close to your heart, healthy lung and other critical organs.

Since each cancer diagnosis is unique, we encourage anyone seeking treatment options to speak with one of our Cancer Care Experts to see if proton therapy is right for you.

 

Sources

  1. American Cancer Society. What Causes Lung Cancer? Read More
  2. National Cancer Institute. National Lung Screening Trial. Read More
  3. National Cancer Database Analysis of Proton Versus Photon Radiaion Therapy in NSCLC. Read More
  4. American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Lung Cancer. Read More
  5. Proton Beam Radiotherapy and Concurrent Chemotherapy for Unresectable Stage III Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer Final Results of a Phase 2 Study. Read More
  6. High-dose hypofractionated proton beam radiation therapy is safe and effective for central and peripheral early-stage non-small cell lung cancer: results of a 12-year experience at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Fractionation 10 for PBT vs 6-8 weeks for IMRT. Read More

 

Mediterranean Diet to Reduce Lung Cancer

Reduce the risk of lung cancer with Mediterranean diet

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Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat impacts reduce risk of lung cancer

By Casey Coffey MS, RD, LDN

According to recent studies, benefits of polyunsaturated fats have been widely reviewed by looking at the relationship between dietary components of the Mediterranean diet and cancer risk, diabetes, cardiovascular events, and Alzheimer’s disease. Within these studies, the primary conclusion shows correlation between fat intake and risk associated with lung cancer.

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Conventional radiation for lung cancer damages heart

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Note: This is the first in a monthly series of blogs that will be authored by Dr. Ben Wilkinson, radiation oncologist and medical director for Provision Center for Proton Therapy. Dr. Wilkinson will cover a variety of topics related to proton therapy treatment and cancer care.

For some years now, the damage conventional radiation can do to the hearts of breast cancer patients has been documented in the medical literature.

Now, we’re seeing the same effects in lung cancer patients. (more…)

Sarcoma rare but responsive to proton therapy

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Sarcoma represents just 1 percent of cancer cases. Bob Sisson is among the 1 percent.

“There isn’t a buddy check for sarcoma,” he says. “I don’t know how you give yourself any self-exams. It’s just bad luck.”

A cancer of the body’s connective tissue, there are approximately 14,000 cases of sarcoma diagnosed each year in the United States and represent approximately 15 percent of cancer found in children, according to the Sarcoma Alliance. About 11,300 of those cases soft tissue sarcoma, which can be found in muscles, fat, blood vessels, tendons and other tissues. Just 2,890 cases are bone sarcomas. Sisson was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma known as spindle cell last October.

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“I started feeling a lump on my left hip—the left hip started getting a little larger than the right hip,” he says. That was last summer. By fall, he started to feel pain in his hip bone, and he visited his primary care physician who ordered a CT scan. There was a large tumor that had already metastasized into Sisson’s lungs.

“Maybe if I’d gone in 3 months sooner…,” he wonders.

Because the tumor was so close to key organs including the bowel and kidneys, he was not a candidate for surgery. He started chemotherapy at the recommendation of his oncologist in hopes of shrinking the tumors. But Sisson had also noticed the Provision ads on television featuring ice skating champion Scott Hamilton. He did some research about proton therapy and made a “cold call” to the Knoxville treatment center.

“I thought the proton therapy sounded good for me,” he says. “I have a background in nuclear engineering, so I’m not unfamiliar with the (concept)…. I talked to my doctor, and he said he didn’t think it would be a bad route.”

Sisson and his wife spent three hours at the initial consultation, talking with Dr. Tamara Vern-Gross and her nurse Julie Goodfellow.

“They brought in a lot of their staff people to meet with us and talk with us,” he says. “It was so great to be able to have that interaction, that they would take the time to sit there and talk to you about this.”

Because protons deposit their energy at a specific target, there is less collateral damage to surrounding, healthy tissues and organs, making it a good treatment for many cancers, including sarcoma. Vern-Gross also advised on a shorter regimen of traditional radiation therapy, completed at Provision Radiation Therapy, for the smaller tumors in Sisson’s lungs.

The tumor on Sisson’s hip responded well to the treatment, drastically reducing the size of the sarcoma. He continues chemotherapy treatment for the lung nodules.

“The facility was just first-class. Just walking into the facility you think you’re in a clubhouse. It gives you a healthy perspective, a positive perspective,” Sisson says. “I would give (Provision) the highest marks on care. I would give it the highest marks on medical (expertise) because it’s state of the art. Dr. Tamara is great, absolutely fantastic. The world is a better place to have people like her.”

As for his cancer, Sisson says he has continued to stay active—caring for his wife who suffered from a stroke four years ago, driving himself to chemotherapy, keeping up the house and yard. While he knows the odds for beating stage 4 cancer aren’t in his favor, and although his Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance would not pay for the proton therapy treatments, he does not regret the investment.

“It resolved the issue that it was supposed to,” he says, referring to the tumor on his hip. “It’s your life you’re talking about.”

Men’s health awareness should include cancer screenings

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June is Men’s Health Awareness month—a time to remember that keeping tabs on your health can pay long-term dividends.

Cancer screenings can play an important role in health awareness, particularly for those at risk of certain types of cancer, because catching and treating cancer in its early stages improves the prognosis for remission and long-term survival.

This is particularly true for lung cancer patients.

For example, in lung cancer patients, those who have stage 1 cancer experience a 45-49 percent five-year survival rate—that is, 45-49 percent of patients are still alive five years following treatment. That compares to a 5-14 percent five-year survival rate for stage 3 and a 1 percent five-year survival rate for those with Stage 4 lung cancer. That’s according to statistics from National Cancer Institute.

Lung screenings are now covered by Medicare as well as state and private insurers for those at high risk for lung cancer. Medicare, for example, pays for the test for those between ages 55 and 77 who’ve smoked 30 pack-years—or the number of cigarettes smoked per day divided by 20 (1 pack has 20 cigarettes)—as well as those who currently smoke or quit smoking within the past 15 years.

Provision Diagnostic Imaging offers lung screenings, a low dose CT scan that would cost $300-$500 without health insurance reimbursement. Call (865) 684-2600 to schedule a lung screening.

Unlike lung cancer, prostate cancer has a much higher survivability rate—but it affects a much higher percentage of the population. Prostate cancer is the third most common cancer. In 2015, there will be an estimated 220,800 new cases diagnosed in the U.S., and approximately 14 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate in their lifetimes, according to the National Cancer Institute.

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