Are we better at diagnosing and curing lung cancer? Dr. Shayma Kazmi answers all your questions about the current fight against lung cancer during the pandemic.
Shayma Kazmi, M.D.
Medical Oncologist and Hematologist, Cancer Treatment Centers of America
How has COVID-19 amplified the need to raise awareness and increase screening for lung cancer?
As a pandemic, COVID-19 has really highlighted the fragility of the human body. Prior to COVID-19, we were already doing poorly in terms of screening for lung cancer. The pandemic has further delayed proper healthcare for most. Delaying lung cancer diagnosis has serious consequences, especially if it is diagnosed at later stages. It can result in a worse prognosis.
What developments and advancements do you envision lung cancer care will see in the next five to ten years?
After a diagnosis, genomic testing is a big advance we can now take advantage of. Lung cancer has seen the most genomic success of all cancers in the last five to seven years. We have significantly extended survival in late-stage patients by targeting specific mutations and harnessing the immune system. Further, the development of increased and better screening has led to earlier diagnoses and improved outcomes.
Looking to the future, we hope to see even more progress in the treatment of early- and advanced-stage lung cancers.
Who is most susceptible to lung cancer? Are there certain groups facing disproportionate vulnerability?
Though radiation and other environmental exposures can increase risk, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer globally. But even nonsmokers can get lung cancer. Screening is grossly underutilized in the US. Only four to five percent of qualified patients get screened. Populations with limited healthcare access are at a disproportionate vulnerability.
What steps can every individual be taking to protect themselves from lung cancer?
If you smoke, stop smoking. Your healthcare team is there to help you succeed. If you don’t smoke, please don’t start. And if you qualify, be sure to get screened. If there are concerns for lung-related symptoms, promptly seek medical care and attention. If you have a basement, radon testing is also important; radon is another cause of lung cancer.
We can all do our part to spread awareness of the deadliest cancer in the United States. Quitting smoking and screening for lung cancers are the two biggest steps we can take to make strides against this deadly disease.