Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. It is a preventable disease as 80 percent of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking, which is considered a leading risk factor, according to the American Cancer Society. If you or a loved one currently smokes, quitting can help reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. While cessation can be difficult, it can be done with the help of resources such as nicotine replacement patches or medications as well as help from a tobacco control program. At Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, we provide state-of-the-art tobacco treatment resources through the Rutgers Tobacco Dependence Program. Despite smoking being a major risk factor for lung cancer development, non-smokers are also at risk for lung cancer. Those with persistent symptoms such as cough, chest pain or weight loss, should speak with a healthcare professional about checking for lung cancer – even if there is not a family history of the disease or a history of smoking.
Members of Rutgers Cancer Institute’s Lung Cancer/Thoracic Oncology Program participated in the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), which showed that screening for lung cancer was more effective with a CT scan of the chest rather than with a chest x-ray. If detected early, lung cancer can be treated with surgery or radiation providing for better outcomes. Therefore, those with a smoking history should check with a doctor to see if annual CT scans are appropriate for them. Depending on age, smoking history and other risk factors, one’s insurance may cover this test. Also, current and former smokers who develop symptoms such as cough, blood in the sputum, chest pain or weight loss should speak to a healthcare professional about a workup for lung cancer.
Jyoti Malhotra, MD, MPH
Many lung cancers are at an advanced stage and have already spread throughout the body when they are first diagnosed. In the past, advanced lung cancers were difficult to treat but this has changed recently with the discovery of many new treatment options. These include targeted therapies and immunotherapy. Targeted therapy acts on specific mutations or DNA changes in a patient’s lung tumor. Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer. With these new therapies, advanced lung cancer patients are now living longer and have a much better quality of life.
To conclude, the best way to fight lung cancer is to prevent it by not smoking. But for those who do have a history of smoking, early detection using lung cancer screening with a CT scan is the key to fighting this disease.
To learn more about the Rutgers Tobacco Dependence Program, call 732-235-8222 or visit www.cinj.org/patient-care/tobacco-dependence-program. For more information about the lung cancer screening program or to schedule an appointment, call 855-795-5864 or visit www.cinj.org/patient-care/lung-cancer-screening-program.
Jyoti Malhotra, MD, MPH, is a medical oncologist in the Lung Cancer/Thoracic Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.