FOr the last six years, Elisa Barbaro’s movie came out Lung Cancer. The 71-year-old New Yorker smoker about 50 years ago, but she doubts she would have had her preventive CT scan annually if her pulmonologist hadn’t told her she should. Even though the procedure only took 15 minutes, it saved her life — more than once. During CT scans in 2019 and 2020, cancer was discovered in Barbaro’s lungs.
At first, Barbaro was horrified to learn she had cancer. But because her doctors were checking her lungs annually, and then every six months after her diagnosis, they were able to Look for nodules Soon after they start growing, when they are still very young. This means that the cancer can be easily removed with surgery, and that it does not require aggressive (and often painful) procedures to contain it, such as chemotherapy and radiation. Now, Barbaro is urging her friends who currently or previously smoke to get tested.
“I know people are afraid of knowing they have something wrong with them,” Barbaro says. “But for me, the fear is by far the greatest of not knowing that you have something wrong with you.”
Lung cancer is The leading cause of cancer deathsOne reason for this is that many patients do not experience symptoms until the disease is advanced. In the United States only 18.6% Of all lung cancer patients who live for five years, only 16% of lung cancers are diagnosed at an early stage. New research finds that more widespread screening can dramatically improve people’s odds of surviving lung cancer. in Research Presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America on November 27, an international team of researchers examined more than 87,000 participants, including Barbaro, with varying levels of lung cancer risk. Examinations have been performed at least annually in more than 80 institutions around the world. Those who were screened annually had a reduced risk of dying from lung cancer; In more than 80% of cases, the cancer is caught early. Of the 1,285 patients diagnosed with lung cancer, the survival rate over 20 years was 80%. And 92% of patients who develop lung cancer in its early stages survive for at least 20 years.
This research adds to a growing body of evidence that lung cancer screening saves lives. under current recommendations From the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) – an independent body that reviews hundreds of studies on prevention and screening for various conditions – people ages 50 to 80 with a 20 “year pack” smoking history (calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes a person smokes per day by the years a person has smoked) should be screened annually. So should people in this age group who currently smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years. “Lung cancer screening helps people live longer and healthier lives, because it catches lung cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage,” says Dr. John Wong, professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and USPSTF member. (Wong was not involved in the new study.)
Despite these benefits, most people who qualify are not screened. A 2017 study The publication in 2020 found that only about 12% of people recommended under the USPSTF criteria at the time had been screened for lung cancer over the past 12 months. As a result, many cases of lung cancer are diagnosed at a late stage, when treatment options may be fewer or none at all. That’s part of the reason the authors of the new study wanted to do this research, says Dr. Claudia Henske, MD, director of the Early Lung and Heart Work Program at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and lead author of the book. the study. “The message hasn’t gotten enough for people at risk of lung cancer: that they can be treated,” says Henchke. “Going back for the annual checkup year after year is important.”
Lung cancer patients often don’t have symptoms right away because in the early stages the cancer is too small to cause noticeable symptoms, says New Jersey-based oncologist Dr. Michael Nissenblatt (who was not involved in the study). For example, patients do not begin to feel pain until the cancer has spread to the surface of the lung, where it can scratch the walls of the chest. “Lung cancer in its early stages without screening simply won’t be detected,” he says, “unless a doctor detects it on a test for another disease.”
Over the past few decades, Nissenblatt says, doctors have made great strides in treating lung cancer. In recent years, more patients have survived stage III and IV lung cancer thanks to Advances in treatments, including a new course of treatment after a year of chemotherapy and radiation with a drug called durvalumab. However, even with this treatment, Nissenblatt notes, more than half of people with stage III lung cancer die within five years. In this area, he says, “we’ve made progress, but not much.”
Scientific advances in surgical techniques have also made treating early-stage lung cancer easier. Whereas 20 years ago patients had to stay in the hospital for 10 days after surgery, he says, the latest measures enable patients to leave the hospital the same day or the next morning. “It’s no more of a problem than removing the gallbladder or removing the appendix,” he says.
For patients who fit a particular profile, Nissenblatt says, the choice of screening is clear. “The earlier the diagnosis is made, the greater the chance that you will be cured,” he says.
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