MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute Shining a Light on the Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer

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lung cancer monthIn 2012, lung cancer will be the cause of an estimated 160,000 deaths in the United States and more than 200,000 new cases will emerge. It is the leading cancer killer of both men and women and more deaths can be attributed to lung cancer than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. Despite these alarming facts, lung cancer receives the least amount of funding among major cancers.

Throughout the year, less than $1,500 per death will be committed to lung cancer research compared to more than $26,000 per death for breast cancer. The inequality in funding has kept the five year survival rate for lung cancer at 15 percent over the past 40 years while the rate for breast cancer and prostate cancer survival has reached nearly 90 percent.

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute (TCI) at Long Beach Memorial is dedicated to educating the community about the signs and symptoms for lung cancer and the need for early detection, as well as eliminating the stigma surrounding lung cancer in hopes of increasing research and funding efforts and reducing the lung cancer mortality rate.

Since lung cancer often shows no symptoms until the disease has reached an advanced stage, knowing your exposure to lung cancer risk factors is imperative in determining whether or not you need a lung cancer screening.

The common assumption is only people who are smokers get lung cancer, but smoking is only one factor that can increase your risk for the disease. In fact, 60 percent of new lung cancer cases are former smokers and nearly 20 percent have never smoked. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking adults will die each year from lung cancer as a result of breathing secondhand smoke.

Other factors like family health history, the environment in which you live and work and exposure to high levels of air pollution, contaminated drinking water and certain chemicals or materials such as radon, asbestos, uranium, coal products, gasoline and diesel gas can all affect your risk of developing lung cancer.

When symptoms do appear, they’re often similar to those of other common illnesses like coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, pneumonia and wheezing among others. By the time many patients are diagnosed, the cancer will have reached an advanced stage decreasing the rate of survival.

To increase the survival rates of its patients, Long Beach Memorial offers an early detection program, which consists of a low-dose, non-contrast CT scan to screen high-risk patients for lung cancer. This approach allows physicians to find cases in the earlier stages of growth, as well as improve survival rates.

A study conducted by the National Cancer Institute showed that the detection procedure like the one used at Long Beach Memorial is known to reduce mortality rates by 20 percent.

In addition to offering early detection, TCI has multi-disciplinary teams that are able to provide comprehensive follow-up care to those screenings if necessary. Part of this follow-up care includes an innovative process called functional-profiling used to match available treatments to each individual according to their unique profile of sensitivity and resistance. The process involves testing different combinations of drugs on a sample of the patients’ cancerous tissue in a lab to determine which treatment the patient would respond to best without having to put the drugs in their body first.

TCI encourages community members to educate themselves on the possible risk factors and inquire about early detection if their exposure to lung cancer risk factors is high.

To commemorate National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, TCI is sponsoring Long Beach’s “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer” Vigil on Tuesday, November 13 at 6 p.m. at the Rainbow Harbor Nautical Band Shell at The Pike to raise awareness of the second leading cause of all deaths in the U.S. – lung cancer.

For the fourth straight year, the National “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer” Vigil is the largest national and international coordinated awareness event for lung cancer. TCI hopes to empower attendees by connecting our community in a national call-to-action to reduce lung cancer mortality by 50 percent by 2020. Visit MemorialCare.org/Events for more information or to register for this event.

About the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute:
The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute (TCI) is dedicated to the early diagnosis, treatment, research and education of patients with cancer or serious blood disorders. TCI specializes in the divisions of gynecology, breast, thoracic, gastrointestinal and urinary cancers. TCI also offers psychosocial oncology services to help patients improve their quality of life while dealing with cancer. Recognized as one of the top two cancer centers in Southern California for having the lowest complication rate, nearly 2,000 people are treated for cancer at TCI annually. Through interdisciplinary treatment planning conferences, TCI experts develop specialized treatment plans suited to the specific needs of each patient. TCI recently broke ground on a new 64,000 sq. ft. pavilion that will house the world’s most advanced technology for cancer treatment, wellness programs, support groups and a patient navigator that together will treat the whole patient. Visit MemorialCare.org, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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