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Health care professionals urge screenings to catch lung cancer early in honor of Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 1:08 PM EST
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and Doctors are taking the opportunity to remind people it’s important to get screened...as once symptoms occur, it may already be too late.

Staff Radiologist Alan Mautz at Northern Light AR Gould Hospital says, “There are new diagnosis in the range of 230-240,000 per year in the United States and a substantial number of deaths from lung cancer in the neighborhood of 120,000 a year.”

And so, doctors are using Lung Cancer Awareness Month to encourage people at risk of developing lung cancer to get screened.

Mautz says, “We know that second hand smoke causes lung cancer, radon can cause lung cancer, it happens intermittently without a known cause, but the huge majority of lung cancer cases relate to smoking.”

There are some symptoms to be on the lookout for.

Mautz says symptoms include, “cough, including coughing up blood, weight loss, chest pain, you can have shortness of breath, obviously. The problem is the symptoms are mainly non specific there is a lot of cross over with other diseases. When symptoms occur, we may be past the point of treating with the intent to cure and more with the intent to slow progress of what may be inevitable.”

However, if it is caught early, there is a really good chance of curing the cancer. Especially with a procedure called SBRT.

AR Gould Radiation Oncologist Charles Hechtman says, “Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy also called stereotactic ablative radiotherapy and these are very, very precise, only a millimeter tolerances. And we basically put a series of beams together. All around patients from different directions. All these beams are weak, but when they coalesce onto this one little spot, it becomes a blade. If you sort of imagine a magnifying glass with the sun coming in and all of a sudden you can see it focuses onto one little spot. You can burn things with that.”

Hetchman adds in the past, with chemotherapy, there was about a 30% chance of curing the lung cancer, he says today, with the SBRT and no chemotherapy, that has gone up to more than a 90% chance. But both men agree, catching it early is the key. If you have any questions or want to get in for a screening, you are encouraged to speak with your primary healthcare provider.

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