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Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - Fighting Back Against Lung Cancer With Less Invasive Treatment and Improved Patient Education

Fighting Back Against Lung Cancer With Less Invasive Treatment and Improved Patient Education
By Robert Caccavale, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.C.P.

The statistics of Americans who will contract lung cancer in their lives are sobering ─ the chance that men will develop lung cancer is about one in 13 and one in 16 for women. These numbers include both smokers and non-smokers. For smokers, the risk is significantly higher, of course. Seniors are at significantly increased risk ─ two out of three people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older. Many are surprised to learn that more people die of lung cancer than from colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

CAT scan screening showing positive results for higher risk patients

            While the incidence of lung cancer has decreased, diagnostic screenings for this type of cancer continue to be frustratingly limited. Recent studies have found that older and higher risk patients may benefit from a low-dose CAT scan (CT) of the chest which offers a more detailed examination of the chest, in comparison to a traditional X-ray, with a lower incidence of false-positive results. It should also be noted, however, that CT scans performed for the purpose of lung cancer screening are not currently covered by medical insurance, in many cases.

Newer minimally invasive methods for a complicated surgery

From a surgeon’s perspective, the lungs are difficult to access. In the event a lung cancer diagnosis is confirmed, many patients can now benefit from a significantly less invasive surgery. My practice partner, board-certified thoracic surgeon Jean-Philippe Bocage, MD, FACS, and I were among the first in the world to perform video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), a minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. Instead of traditional lung surgery, which requires opening the chest with a large incision and breaking or removing ribs in order to access the lungs, we insert a tiny camera and surgical instruments in the chest through only four tiny incisions. The camera (thoracoscope) transmits images onto a video monitor to guide us in assessing the entire chest without invasive trauma to the ribcage. During a single VATS procedure, we can diagnose and treat problems in the chest, perform biopsies and even remove tumors or large portions of the affected lung, as necessary.

Are you at higher risk for lung cancer?

Risk factors include smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke and smoking-related lung diseases; over age 65; family history of lung cancer; exposure to carcinogenic, environmental toxins such as radon and asbestos; and undergoing high levels of radiation therapy to the chest. If you fall into this high-risk category, talk with your doctor about what steps you can take now to protect yourself. Earlier detection of any cancer diagnosis offers less invasive treatment solutions and a significantly improved long-term survival rate.

The Cancer Center at CentraState Medical Center offers the Comprehensive Lung Program specializing in the most advanced lung cancer treatment and technology available, including a low dose CT screening program for high risk patients. Every patient receives an individualized treatment protocol that encompasses the whole person, not just the cancer. ProCure Treatment Centers, Inc., with CentraState Healthcare System and Princeton Radiation Oncology, introduced the first and only proton therapy center to the New Jersey/New York region which uses precise laser-targeted radiation to attack cancerous tumors, including the lung. For more information about CentraState’s Comprehensive Lung Program, call (855) 411-CANCER or visit centrastate.com/lungcancer.

       Dr. Robert Caccavale is a board-certified thoracic surgeon on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. He can be reached at Thoracic Group, with offices in Freehold and Somerset, by calling (732) 637-6348.