What You Need to Know About Lung Cancer

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Every time you smoke, your body is under attack. Smoking stains your teeth, turns your fingers yellow, harms your skin and weakens your immune system, all before the worst part can develop: lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide and remains a formidable disease. There are nearly 400,000 Americans living with lung 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. And 85% of all cases of lung cancer are smoking related and the 5-year overall survival rate is a dismal 15 percent.

Despite the grim statistics, there is budding hope in the management of lung cancer. 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 NIH sponsored a Lung Cancer Screening trial demonstrated that in select patients, low dose chest CT screenings may result in a 20% reduction in lung cancer mortality. As a result of this randomized prospective study, many medical centers nationwide have adopted low dose CT screenings of patients with lung cancer.

Advances in the diagnosis and staging of lung cancer include minimally invasive techniques such as endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS), navigational bronchoscopy and endoscopic ultrasound. Minimally invasive surgical techniques such as photodynamic therapy (PDT), video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and robotic lung resections are also available. Anatomic segmental resections and ablative techniques such as PDT and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) also provide treatment options for patients deemed a prohibitive risk for standard surgical therapy. Chemotherapy that targets genetic mutations specific to the cancer cells offer the promise of improved response to therapy, even in patients with advanced disease.

Doctors are aiming to make 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.