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Minimize Your Lung Cancer Risk

Right, this evening we’ve been talking about lung cancer and we’re joined now by Dr. Ziv Gamliel, chief of thoracic surgery at the Angelo Center for Lung Diseases at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center and also Harbor Hospital. Thank you so much, doctor, for joining us. Thank you! Talk to us about what you can do to minimize your risk, because if you’re here that you have lung cancer, that is just so frightening.

Is there anything you can do to minimize your risk? Well there’s certainly a number of substances that can cause lung cancer. Common ones would be asbestos or radon, but we know that over 80% of cases of lung cancer are directly attributable to exposure to tobacco smoke, so certainly the most important thing to do to lower your risk is distance yourself from tobacco smoke and quit smoking. And you have those rare cases when you were never a smoker and then you were diagnosed. Also, unfortunately, almost a fifth of cases of lung cancer occur in lifelong non-smokers, but certainly we do know that cigarette smoking is the key risk factor.

So how can a person know if they have lung cancer? Lung cancer can cause symptoms, like a cough, or shortness of breath, wheezing, people may cough up blood, but those are pretty late findings with lung cancer and the goal really is to identify your lung cancer before it causes those symptoms. So in the last few years, we’ve been blessed with the ability to screen effectively for lung cancer and the trick really is to discover lung cancer at its very earliest stages when it’s most curable. So if you’re — if you go through the screening and you find out that you have lung cancer, what can you do at that point? So lung screening is very widely available, very easy to do.

People might be a little nervous about getting screened, because they’re not wanting to face the consequences of finding out that they have lung cancer, but in this day and age, we have very minimally invasive methods of evaluating and staging lung cancer and even treating lung cancer. Surgery’s been perfected over the last twenty years that can be done through very small incisions with a very quick return to work and full functioning, so that, ideally, if a lung cancer is found in its early stages, patients can have a minimally invasive operation, be back to full functioning in a matter of a few weeks and live the rest of their lives cancer-free. And that’s — that’s the next question I was going to ask you, lung cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence like it was in years past? So the cure rate for lung cancer is not as high as we would like it to be, certainly, but it’s definitely higher today than it was when I first went into my medical training and it continues to climb thanks to a number of treatments and to multidisciplinary methods of taking care of lung cancer that don’t involve surgery alone or chemotherapy alone, the combinations of treatments.

All right, doctor, thanks so much for coming in! We are taking your calls. The number is 410-481-2222. If you’ve got questions about lung disease and treatment options, MedStar Health Cancer Network is right next door taking your call. .