Lung cancer in 2023 is not your grandparents' lung cancer
TriStar Health is focused on improving lung cancer treatment options and encouraging early detection.
Historically, lung cancer is known for low survival rates and limited treatment options, but recent advancements in screening, targeted chemotherapy, focused radiation and minimally invasive surgery are changing the outlook for patients diagnosed with lung cancer. The key is finding cancer in early stages, which increases treatment options and survival rates.
Lung cancer kills more people than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined. In fact, Tennessee ranks third in the nation for lung cancer diagnoses and fourth in deaths related to lung cancer. However, there are recent changes in lung cancer care that are promising, as multiple facets of treatment have changed. TriStar Health is working on all angles to improve the care of patients with lung cancer.
Lung cancer treatment is evolving
Treatment for lung cancer has progressed in all phases, including diagnosis, surgical approach, medical oncology and radiation oncology options. Diagnosis and stage can be captured using GPS navigation bronchoscopy and endobronchial ultrasound. Utilizing minimally-invasive robotic approaches means a faster recovery with less pain, less down time and increased survival. In addition, stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) uses high-intensity beams over four to six treatments completed in less than two weeks. Chemotherapy protocols also changed, allowing for more targeted treatments. Immunotherapy employs the body’s own immune system to target tumor cells as foreign and has had a significant impact. TriStar Health also implemented systemic therapy prior to surgery to make previously inoperable tumors operable.
Screening and early detection make the difference
A lung cancer diagnosis shouldn’t be considered a death sentence any more, and our lung cancer survival rates are improving. Lung cancer deaths dropped five percent per year from 2013 to 2017 and are down 29 percent since 1991. Improved treatment options are available, but outcomes are much better if lung cancer is found early. Screening can save lives, but it’s critical these screenings take place regularly. Unfortunately, lung cancer typically does not lead to symptoms until it’s more advanced and in a later stage. Lung cancer screenings are fairly simple, as there is no need for bowel prep, IV access, blood draws, undressing or uncomfortable exams. Low dose CT scans offer less radiation than traditional CT scans, and they produce higher-quality images for physicians.
A lung cancer screening should be a regular preventative health check for those who are at higher risk for developing lung cancer, just like a mammogram or colonoscopy. Lung cancer screening is recommended for those ages 50 to 80 who have smoked an average of one pack a day for 20 years, including people who still smoke or have quit within the last 15 years. Through low dose CT scans, we are catching more cancers in their earliest, most treatable stages. Patients with a nodule one centimeter or less have a 90 percent five-year survival rate.
As awareness for screening grows, overcoming lung cancer stigma and better access to low dose lung cancer screening remain the biggest roadblocks for many patients and providers. Through a multidisciplinary approach involving surgeons, pulmonologists, radiologists, interventional pulmonologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, primary care physicians and nurse navigators, we are changing the landscape of lung cancer.