6. Lung cancer is treatable when caught early
Treatment for lung cancer depends on several factors such as the type of cancer, where the tumours are located, the stage of cancer, and the patient’s overall health.
When lung cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, long-term survival rates increase. But because symptoms typically do not develop until later, it is often difficult to make a correct diagnosis until the cancer is in an advanced stage. The five-year survival rate for cases in which the cancer is found early—when it is still confined to the lungs— is 52 percent.14 Once it has spread to other organs, however, the survival rate falls to just four percent.15
Early-stage non-small cell lung cancer—a form that is most commonly caused by smoking—has a better prognosis than other forms through the use of surgery or radiation therapy.
Clinical trials are ongoing throughout most of the U.S. and the National Cancer Institute encourages anyone diagnosed with lung cancer to consider participating, particularly those who have been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.
7. Positive results from new medications
During the last decade, new, targeted therapies, treatments that focus on specific irregularities within the tumours themselves, have begun to show promise. Some of these include bevacizumab (Avastin), which stops tumours from forming a new blood supply; and erlotinib (Tarceva), which prevents chemicals from telling cancer cells to multiply.
Immunotherapy drugs—drugs that help the immune system reboot and fight cancer—are another new medication showing promise, and “side effects could be more favorable than chemotherapy drugs,” Dr. Eric S. Kim, an assistant professor in the department of medicine, hematology/oncology at the Wilmot Cancer Institute in Rochester, New York, said in an April 2015 interview with Live Science.
The latest of these medications to be approved by the FDA is nivolumab (Opdivo), which targets two sub-types of non-small cell lung cancer called metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and metastatic squamous NSCLC that have continued to progress despite chemotherapy.
In a recent international clinical trial, 19 percent of the 582 participants responded to Opdivo compared to a 12-percent response rate to the cancer drug docetaxel.16 Median overall survival rate for those treated with Opdivo was 12.2 months, compared to 9.4 months for those receiving docetaxel.17
Proton therapy, which delivers precise radiation to a specific tumour so that healthy tissue is not affected, has also shown significant promise in the treatment of lung cancer, especially late-stage NSCLC.
8. It’s never too late to quit smoking
Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, and this doesn’t just mean cigarettes. Cigars and pipes also contain the chemicals that can damage cells and cause cancer. The best way to prevent lung cancer is to never start smoking, or to quit if you do.
Smoking contributes to 90 percent and 80 percent of deaths in men and women respectively.18 Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer; women who smoke are 13 times more likely.19 Between 2005 and 2010, approximately 131,000 Americans died of smoking-related lung cancer each year.20
The risk of lung cancer begins to fall within weeks or months for those who choose to quit smoking. Remaining a non-smoker for at least 10 to 20 years cuts the risk of developing lung cancer by 50 to 75 percent.21
9. Support groups for lung cancer patients, their families and friends
More than 430,000 people living today have at some point been diagnosed with lung cancer.22 Seeking support from others, including professionals, is an important step. Support groups exist across the U.S.—both professional and peer—and are open to anyone diagnosed with lung cancer.
Palliative care specialists can also provide support after a diagnosis. A common misconception is that palliative care is for end-of-life care but when used alongside treatment, it has actually been found to extend life.
10. Raising awareness through social media
There are many ways to become involved with the fight against lung cancer. Raise awareness via Facebook and Twitter with messages that aim to make a difference. Join the conversation on lung cancer at #lcsm and learn about events, new clinical trials, and treatments. Other key hashtags are #ShineALight, and #lungcancer.
Shine a Light on Lung Cancer, which is the largest awareness event for lung cancer, takes place every year, as well as Team Lung Love, coordinated sports events that range from 5Ks to triathlons.
Connect with others through Lungevity, which provides a platform of resources, support, survivorship programs and events across the country for people diagnosed with lung cancer, as well as their families, friends, and healthcare providers.