Stopping Killers in their Tracks… (Part Two)
By Vicky L. Chappell, M.D., Texoma Cardiovascular, Texoma LIVING WELL Magazine
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top three leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer and stroke. There has been a decline in the age-adjusted death rate for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death. However, deaths from heart disease and cancer alone still accounted for 48% of deaths in the U.S. in 2009.
More people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Among both men and women in the U.S., lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer, accounting for more deaths than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer combined. In the U.S. in 2007, 203,536 people were diagnosed with lung cancer, and 158,683 people died from it.
The good news is that there has been a decrease in the number of deaths from lung cancer. Among men in the U.S., the number of new lung cancer cases and the number of deaths from lung cancer have decreased over the last several decades because the number of men who smoke has declined. The lung cancer mortality rate in women has finally begun to decline, more than a decade later than the decline began in men. The lag in lung cancer trends in women compared with men reflects a later uptake of cigarette smoking in women. Among women in the U.S., reductions in smoking are more recent, beginning in the late 1970s.
There may be several ways to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. First of all, don’t smoke. Tobacco use is the major cause of lung cancer in the U.S. About 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in women in this country are due to smoking. The most important thing a person can do to prevent lung cancer is to not start smoking, or to quit if he or she currently smokes. At least one reason for the reduction in lung cancer deaths is the development of prevention programs by the CDC and other organizations. Much of the prevention focuses on smoking cessation and avoidance.
If prevention fails and a patient develops lung cancer, there are still many factors that may play a role in outcomes. It has been long known that cancer is more easily treated in earlier stages. To diagnose disease earlier, programs have been developed using screening computed tomography scan. Decreasing the time to treatment, once lung cancer is found, also improves prognosis. Preoperative chemotherapy and radiation may decrease cancer stage. Early stage lung cancer, which is amenable to resection, can sometimes be cured with surgery alone.
In addition to prevention strategies and screening, new methods for treating more advanced lung cancer are improving outcomes. Lung cancer treatment is tailored to the needs and wishes of the individual patient. General guidelines exist to direct medical professionals as they make their decisions, though each treatment plan is designed with a particular patient in mind. Even so, it is important for people diagnosed with lung cancer to understand their options. It is useful to know which cancer treatment has the greatest chance of success in a particular situation, which treatments are more experimental in nature, which treatments are likely to be ineffective, and which treatments are aimed at reducing symptoms (palliative) rather than achieving a cure.
More recent studies have shown favorable outcomes when surgery is part of a multimodality program for treating advanced lung cancer. Given our aging population, investigations showing the advantages of surgery in elderly patients are an important advancement in the treatment of lung cancer. The conclusion from research groups is that surgical treatment should no longer be denied based on chronological age alone. The physicians at Texoma Cardiovascular Surgeons work closely with oncologists and radiologists to provide appropriate management for each patient.
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To read Part One of Dr. Chappell’s “Stopping Killers in their Tracks,” visit www.LivingWellmag.com and enter keywords “Texoma Cardiovascular Surgeons”.
Author Vicky L. Chappell, M.D. is a physician with Texoma Cardiovascular Surgeons located in Sherman, TX and can be reached at 903-868-4595 or visit their website at www.TexomaHeartDoctors.com.