Year after year, lung cancer continues to be the No. 1 cause of cancer death in the U.S. and worldwide. This year, more than 228,190 people in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer and approximately 160,000 people are expected to die from the disease — enough people to fill Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Chicago’s Soldier Field to overflowing.
City of Hope is trying to change that.
The national cancer research hospital has established a program that combines lung cancer screening with tobacco cessation — to help smokers detect problems early and to help them live a smoke-free life.
Smoking is linked to most lung cancer deaths in the U.S. and remains the leading risk factor for lung cancer. (Lung cancer is rising among nonsmokers, however, especially women.)
The first and best step to help avoid smoking-related health problems, including lung cancer, is to give up cigarettes. That is, kick the habit — for good.
“We believe very strongly that one of our missions is to help eliminate the use of tobacco, which is probably the most important thing people can do to decrease their cancer risk,” Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of City of Hope's Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program, said in a recent interview with City of Hope's City News.
Smokers who want to quit can get help from the tobacco0-cessation element of the program, which provides one-on-one counseling, group support sessions and medications.
But screening is important too, especially for longtime smokers. A major reason that lung cancer continues to be the deadliest cancer is that by the time a patient develops symptoms, the disease usually has reached an advanced stage. As a result, surgery is not an option for many lung cancer cases.
But if the disease is found in its earlier stages, before it has spread, more than half of patients survive for at least five years. City of Hope uses advanced X-ray technology to screen for lung cancer. The scan delivers only a low dose of radiation, slightly more than a mammogram.
“The evidence is unequivocal. Lung cancer screening saves lives,” Raz said.
Current patients interested in the program can ask their physician for a referral. Other current and former smokers interested in the screening program may contact New Patient Services at 800-826-4673.
Denise Heady contributed to this article.