More than 200,000 new cases of lung cancer will be detected this year.
According to medical professionals in the Northwest Indiana community, more than half of those will be in men.
Similarly, lung cancer deaths are higher in men, and the lifelong probability of developing lung cancer is 1 in 13 in men, yet only 1 in 16 in women.
Doctors say there’s hope, however.
“Incidence is trending down in men, and appears to just be starting to do so in women,” says Dr. Rami Haddad, a medical oncologist on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital’s Cancer Center. “The trend lags behind in women as a reflection of smoking patterns in women compared to men.”
Women began smoking regularly in large numbers decades later than men, he says. So as more women smoked, their rates of lung cancer incidence have increased.
Although the prevalence of smoking has decreased, about 37 percent of U.S. adults are current or former smokers.
“The incidence of lung cancer increases with age and occurs most commonly in people aged 55 years and older,” Haddad says.
But thanks to minimally-invasive technologies available at hospitals like St. Mary Medical Center, patients waiting to hear whether they have cancer can have answers much sooner.
Dr. Gaurav Kumar, a pulmonologist on staff at St. Mary Medical Center, says new electromagnetic navigation technology, called SPiN Drive, guides surgeons through the airways to examine lesions located deep in the lungs.
Up until recently, surgeons could only perform a biopsy on a lesion through much more invasive procedures, including a needle biopsy through the chest or surgery.
Pulmonologists and surgeons could also perform a bronchoscopy, but that still carries a risk of bleeding or a punctured lung – and allows for reduced radiation exposure, Kumar says. A bronchoscopy is performed using a scope with a camera. That camera allows the pulmonologist to see into the airways and perform biopsies.
The SPiN Drive procedure, however, generates a 3-dimensional roadmap of a patient’s body, allowing doctors to navigate around the lungs and catching lung cancer in earlier stages – an important feature considering lung cancer is the top killer cancer in the United States.
St. Mary Medical Center is among the first hospitals in the region to use this advanced technology, which is typically performed in an outpatient setting.
But doctors say early detection is also an important component for men.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Society of Clinical Oncologists recommend annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography in adults ages 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year or more smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. A patient who has smoked 15 cigarettes a day for 40 years has a 30 pack-year smoking history.
This information is based on four clinical studies that reported the effectiveness of Low Dose CT scans in lung cancer screening, Haddad says. A Low Dose CT scan is a quick, painless and non-invasive approach to screen for lung cancer, and uses no dyes or injections. It also does not require the patient to swallow anything by mouth.
“The actual scan itself takes less than a minute to complete,” Haddad says.