The following piece was written by Wood River Health's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jonathan Gates and published in the Westerly Sun in August 2023.
Like summer thunderstorms, new evidence is rolling through about lung cancer. August 1st was World Lung Cancer Day, and I’m pleased to share that medicine has made great strides in the traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments of established cancer, especially regarding metastatic cancer, which is when it starts in one place in the body and moves to another.
In the past, before someone could be diagnosed with lung cancer, they first had to experience symptoms like pain, difficulty breathing, and excessive coughing before they visited their primary care provider and tests could be ordered. Plain x-rays to find early lung cancer didn’t work, it was too easy to miss a half inch ball of tissue hidden in someone’s lungs.
Today, much like we can ‘screen’ for colon cancer with a simple home test, we can also screen for lung cancer. A very large scientific trial recently found that CAT-scans – with the radiation level turned down – could find these lumps. What’s more, it reduces the chance of a person dying from lung cancer by almost 29%. By finding the lumps when they are small, they can be removed and cured. Which means more lives can be saved – your primary care provider can talk this through with you.
Here's the good news: you don’t need a specialist to be screened for lung cancer, it’s now part of primary care at health care facilities such as Wood River Health. Even better news: 10 years after quitting smoking completely, a person’s risk of developing lung cancer is half of what it would be if they had continued. So if you are a smoker, here’s my advice: take care of your health now, while trouble is still just thunder in the distance.