According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with more people dying of lung cancer in a year than from breast, prostate, colorectal and brain cancers combined. It is the second most common cancer in both men and women, ranking just behind prostate and breast cancer, respectively.
IMPACT OF COVID-19
While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected just about every aspect of our lives to some degree, cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment have been highly impacted. Many have chosen to delay cancer screenings and, in some cases, cancer surgeries and treatments because they do not want to risk going to a doctor’s office or hospital and being exposed to the virus. It’s a concern that is understandable because cancer patients, especially those who are in active treatment, are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their compromised immune systems.
Lung cancer patients, in particular, tend to be older and have a variety of underlying conditions. They are not necessarily more susceptible to the virus, but if they get it, they are more likely to have more severe complications, according to a recent study conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and published in June 2020 in the Annals of Oncology*. The study reported that 62% of the lung cancer patients were hospitalized and 25% died. Severity of the disease was suspected to be linked to how much or how long the patient was smoking or had smoked. Because of this increased risk, lung cancer patients should be extremely vigilant about taking precautions to prevent the disease.
EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES
Although there have been some real advances in the treatment of lung cancer, the average five-year survival rate for lung cancer in the U.S. is only 19%, unless it is detected early. If the disease is detected early, while it is still localized within the lungs, the five-year survival rate soars to 61%. So, your chances of surviving lung cancer are three times greater when it is detected early.
Smoking remains the greatest risk factor for lung cancer with approximately 85% of all cases of lung cancer occurring in people who are smokers or have smoked in the past.
Unfortunately, only about 15% of all lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. Why? Because often in the early stages there are no real symptoms. That is one of the reasons why regular screenings are so important – especially if you are a current smoker or if you have ever been a heavy smoker for longer than 15 to 20 years.
IMPROVEMENTS IN THE TREATMENT OF LUNG CANCER
Many advances in the treatment of lung cancer have occurred in the past decade, including the development of medications known as targeted therapies, which interfere with certain processes that cancer cells use to grow and spread, and immunotherapies, a type of targeted therapy that boosts the body’s immune system to fight cancer. These drugs have given oncologists many more options in treating lung cancer and have made treatment more effective and safer for patients.
LUNG CANCER RESEARCH INVESTIGATES MANY POSSIBILITIES
Many clinical trials are looking at newer combinations of chemotherapy drugs to determine which are the most effective. Especially important for older patients who may have other health problems, doctors are studying these combinations to discover if treatment outcomes can be further improved. Sometimes, chemotherapy is also being used in combination with some targeted therapies and has been shown to improve survival rates.
There is still much research needed to develop even more effective treatments for lung cancer; however, today many more people are surviving the disease than ever before.
WORLD-CLASS CANCER TREATMENT CLOSE TO HOME
Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS) has a network of expert, Board-certified physicians who bring world-class cancer treatments to local communities, both large and small, across the state in nearly 100 locations. FCS is on the leading edge of clinical trial research, which provides patients access to the newest, most innovative treatments.
Florida Cancer Specialists treats patients with all types of cancer, and offers a number of services, such as an in-house specialty pharmacy, an in-house pathology lab and financial counselors at every location, that deliver the most advanced and personalized care in your local community.
For more information, visit FLCancer.com
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