It’s the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.
It’s the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. for both men and women, with about one in every four cancer deaths attributed to this type of cancer. What is it? The answer – lung cancer.
“Lung cancer is considered a particularly deadly disease because in most cases, it does not cause symptoms until it is advanced,” says Dr. Michael Vercillo, a thoracic surgeon at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital’s Center for Thoracic Disease in Park Ridge, Ill. “Seventy-five percent of patients diagnosed with lung cancer are advanced, with only 15 percent considered early stage.”
So what’s the best tool to combat this deadly form of cancer, with over 154,000 Americans expected to die from lung cancer in 2018, according to the American Lung Association?
“The best current tool we have to combat this form of cancer is a low-dose CT chest for screening,” says Dr. Vercillo. “We utilize this tool across Advocate on high-risk patients who are defined as current smokers or those who have quit within the last 15 years, those who have smoked for at least 30 years and those who are ages 55 to 77. Screening data at Lutheran General has found that of over 500 patients screened, 23 cancers were found with over 60 percent of those cancers being early stage.”
Still, it’s important to note that this test is best used on high-risk patients, says Dr. Vercillo.
So what should the rest of the population do, as non-smokers and minimal smokers can also get lung cancer?
According to U.S. News and World Report, new research and clinical trials are currently being done to answer just that question. Researchers are examining other non-invasive ways to test for lung cancer through blood, saliva and potentially even a breath test.
Still, the research is in the clinical phase and has yet to be proven and implemented in a health care setting.
“It is simply not feasible for everyone in the general population to get a CT chest screening, so these other ideas for screening tests with serum, saliva or breath are very attractive,” says Dr. Vercillo. “There are many trials out there that are looking at serum biomarker panels, trying to find a serum test that could select certain people who should get a CT screening. These types of tests have tremendous value, but currently, none have been widely used or proven. As research and development continues, we could have some new screenings in the very near future that can alert a clinician of a patient being high risk and the need for further testing with a CT screening.”
What does that mean for patients?
The applications of these types of screenings could lead to a significant reduction in mortality of lung cancer by allowing many more of the approximately 250,000 patients diagnosed each year to be early stage than just 15 percent we see now, says Dr. Vercillo.
Concerned about your risk for lung cancer?
Patients who are identified as high risk are recommended to utilize the Lung Screening Program at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital to help identify lung cancer early.
About the Author
Jacquelien Hughes is the manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the co-managing editor of Advocate health enews. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.