Market

Why screening for early detection of lung cancer in older adults is important – Orange County Register


By Dr. Jimmy Johannes,

Contributing writer

Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer among both men and women, second to prostate cancer and breast cancer, respectively, according to the American Cancer Society.

It is also the most common cause of cancer-related death.

Tobacco smoking continues to be the leading risk factor for lung cancer, contributing to about 90% of all lung cancers. Most individuals who are diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 and older, and the average age of a lung cancer diagnosis is 70. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. About 80% to 85% of lung cancers are the former.

The stage of lung cancer is defined by how much it has spread. 

Jimmy Johannes, M.D., medical director, Lung Program at MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute. (Courtesy of Long Beach Medical Center)

Often, patients with lung cancer at an early stage have no symptoms. For that reason, a lung cancer screening can be an important tool to diagnose lung cancer at an earlier stage, when it is more likely to be curable.

The American Lung Association estimates that a lung cancer screening finds 80% of lung cancers at an early stage. Without screening, 70% of lung cancers are found when there’s minimal chance for a cure.

Unfortunately, most patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage.

Patients tend not to be symptomatic until the cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage. The most common symptoms include the  following: 

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse with time.
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm).
  • Chest pain that feels worse with deep breathing, coughing or laughing.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Shortness of breath.

Who should be screened for lung cancer? 

The American Cancer Society recommends people who are at a high-risk for lung cancer consult with  their physician to determine if they qualify for lung cancer screening with a low-dose computed tomography screening. 

In March 2021, the criteria for such a screening was updated. Screening is recommended for high-risk patients, who meet all the following  criteria:  

  • Between 50 to 80 years of age.
  • At least 20 pack-year smoking history.
  • Those who are currently smoking or have quit smoking within the past 15 years.

Patients with a family history of lung cancer and/or certain exposures (for example, radon or asbestos), may want to discuss with their doctor about considering a lung cancer screening.

Older patients diagnosed with lung cancer don’t always seek treatment  

Nearly two-thirds of older patients who have been diagnosed with stage III lung cancer do not receive any cancer treatment, based on a recent study, according to the Cancer Network. Of the 12,641 patients (with a median age of 83 years) entered in the study, 7,921 — or 62.7% — received no therapy. Patients who chose to not undergo treatment or only chose radiation were more likely to die during the years analyzed than those who chose to receive standard-of-care therapy. 

Caring for your lungs 

Fortunately, there are lifestyle modifications recommended by the American Lung Association that you can practice each day to help maintain your lung health. 

Here are simple ways to protect your lungs:  

  • If you smoke, make a plan to quit: Smoking can damage your lungs and put you at a higher risk  for lung cancer. Long Beach Medical Center offers a “Freedom from Smoking” course to help smokers start their quit journey and say goodbye to nicotine. 
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help keep your muscles strong. 
  • Watch your weight: Abdominal fat can affect your diaphragm, the muscle below your lungs and heart, and how it fully expands the lungs. Healthy eating and exercise can help you  maintain a healthy weight.  
  • Get up: Lying down for a long period of time can cause mucus and fluid to settle in your lungs.  It’s important to move around so you don’t have excess buildup in your lungs due to a sedentary lifestyle. 
  • Stay up-to-date on your check-ups: Attending your routine check-ups can help prevent diseases, especially lung disease, which can go undetected until its later stages.  
  • Get your shots: Get your annual flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine, and check with your physician about whether you should also get a pneumonia vaccine.  

The expert Lung Program clinical team at Long Beach Medical Center is here to help you every step of  the way. Find a specialist at 800-MEMORIAL (636-6742) or at memorialcare.org/providers

Dr. Jimmy Johannes is a board-certified internist who specializes in pulmonary diseases and critical care at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

close