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Renewed Efforts to Treat Lung Cancer Offers Hope for Patients

Renewed Efforts to Treat Lung Cancer Offers Hope for Patients

Did you know that lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide? Despite the efforts of physicians and medical researchers, and the placement of warning labels on all cigarette packaging, there are nearly 400,000 Americans living with lung cancer.  In 2014, it is estimated that 224,210 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed.2

Dr. Alton Ochsner began his campaign to establish the link between smoking and the development of lung cancer as early as the 1940s.  In 1952, Dr. Ochsner, along with Drs. Michael DeBakey and Paul DeCamp predicted that an increased mortality rate from lung cancer would parallel the increased smoking rate.  They also suggested that if smoking rates continued to increase, lung cancer would become the leading cause of death from cancer.         

Between 1999 and 2010, the number of annual deaths due to lung cancer increased from 152,156 to 158,318, representing a 4.3 percent increase.3 Lung cancer is also very expensive to treat.  In 2010, lung cancer related care cost the United States $12.1 billion  Lost productivity due to early death from lung cancer cost an additional $36.1 billion.4   Unfortunately, many of these poor outcomes are avoidable considering that 85% of all cases of lung cancer are smoking related as Dr. Ochsner accurately predicted nearly 75 years ago.

Despite the grim statistics, there is budding hope that lung cancer can be managed.  Renewed efforts at lung cancer screenings and new smoking cessation techniques may make a positive impact on the adverse effects of lung cancer.   Advances in the surgical and medical management of lung cancer are also proving effective.  In 2011, the National Institute of Health’s sponsored Lung Cancer Screening trial demonstrated that in select patients, low dose chest CT screening may result in a 20% reduction in lung cancer mortality.5  As a result of this randomized prospective study, many medical centers nationwide have adopted low dose CT screening of patients with lung cancer. Patients who may benefit from CT screening for lung cancer include the following:

  • Age 55-75
  • 30 pack/year smoking history (smoked 1 pack/day for 30 years) or the equivalent
  • Quit smoking within the past 15 years

Ochsner’s, therapy of lung cancer is an example of medical experts working together to effectively treat and manage this fatal disease. This includes a multidisciplinary approach combining the expertise of pulmonologists, medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and pathologists.  This team approach facilitates diagnosis, organizes cutting edge care and translates into improved patient outcomes. 

Available diagnostic, staging and therapeutic techniques include the following:

  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS)
  • Navigational bronchoscopy
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
  • Video assisted thoracoscopy (VATS)
  • Robotic surgery
  • Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
  • Clinical trials enrollment for chemotherapy

It is our aim to take a more tailored approach to the treatment of lung cancer.  Early detection and a wide array of medical and surgical treatment options will undoubtedly make a positive impact upon patient survival in the future. 

If you are a smoker or think you may be at risk for lung cancer, consult your physician and be sure to attend you annual check-ups and health screenings. Learn more about Ochsner’s lung cancer program here.

  1. Ochsner A, DeBakey ME, DeCamp PT, et al.  Bronchogenic carcinoma, its frequency diagnosis and early treatment.  JAMA 1952;  148: 681-697.
  2. American Cancer Society.  Cancer Facts and Figures, 2014.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  National Center for Health Statistics.  National Vital Statistics Report.  Deaths:  Final Data for 2010.  May 8, 2013; 61 (4).
  4. US National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute.  Cancer Trends Progress Report-2011/2012 Updatse.  Costs of Cancer Care.
  5. Aberle DR, Adama AM, Berg CD, et al.  Reduced lung-cancer mortality with low-dose computed tomographic screening.  N Engl J Med. 2011; 356:  395-409.