The American Lung Association says someone in the United States will die from lung cancer every three and a half minutes. It accounts for one in four cancer deaths. Smoking and being around second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer. But how do you know if you have it? It hasn’t always been easy for doctors to detect.
“20 years ago, when people get diagnosed with lung cancer,” said Dr. Richard Brittingham an Internal Medicine Physician at Comanche County Memorial Hospital. “It’s already a stage 3 or stage 4 cancer. They’re probably going to get surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, this and that, but they’re probably not going to have a good outcome.”
Dr. Brittingham said that’s because the longer it exists, the greater the chance it has to spread. Thankfully, doctors have found a way to catch it quicker.
“In my practice alone, I’ve probably found about 15 stage 1 lung cancers on patients,” Dr. Brittingham said.
It’s being detected through a low dose CT scan.
“This procedure takes maybe 5 minutes to do,” he said. “I mean, you lay down on the CT scanner, you raise your hands up, over your head, they run you through it, and you take a breath, you hold your breath, and you come back. You take a breath, you hold your breath, and you’re done.”
He said people who have a 30-pack a year history and are between the ages of 55 and 77 should get the CT scan annually, so it can be caught as quickly as possible.
“When you’re finding the cancer that early, a wedge recession usually is enough,” Dr. Brittingham said. “So, they’re taking out a little bit of the lung that’s got the cancer in it, and that’s it. The patient is not going to die of lung cancer.”
The American Lung Association said the five-year survival rate for someone who got lung cancer is now at 21.7 percent – up from 17.2 percent a decade ago.