Lung cancer is the most lethal cancer in the world in both men and women. Over 160,000 people die yearly in the United States. Lung cancer is related to cigarette smoking in 80-90% of cases, although genetic and environmental risk factors play a role as well. Although improvements have been made in treatments for advanced lung cancers, the key to significantly improving outcomes is prevention (smoking cessation) and early detection. Unfortunately, unlike colon cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and prostate cancer, there is currently no reliable test to detect early lung cancers.
What Can I Do?
If you are a current smoker, talk to your physician and family about quitting! Although former smokers also have an elevated risk of lung cancer, the size of this risk begins to noticeably decrease 5 years after quitting, and continues to go down thereafter.
What Are Signs of Lung Cancer?
Although lung cancer can cause a variety of symptoms, it may also grow silently for a number of months/years. This is why early detection is so difficult. However, you should consult your physician if you have a new cough that persists, blood in your phlegm, unexplained weight decrease or loss of appetite, shortness of breath, or chest pains.
Lung Cancer Treatment at UNC
At UNC, patients are evaluated for possible lung cancer and treated by a team of specialists in the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program (MTOP). This team includes pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and radiologists, pathologists and nurses. The combined expertise of this team is used to provide the best possible care for patients who may need testing for lung cancer, or who are found to have lung cancer. In addition, patients may qualify for new treatment protocols undergoing evaluation.
If your doctor would like to refer you to the MTOP clinic or to learn more, please call 919-966-8738.
The University of North Carolina and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC) have numerous clinical trials for treatment of lung cancer. Patients who are evaluated in the MTOP clinic will be informed about ongoing clinical trials that they be eligible for.