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Understand the importance of lung cancer screenings
Published: 6/2/2021
Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in both men and women in the United States. For statistical perspective, about 200,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year and 150,000 people die from the disease.

If those numbers aren’t shocking enough, lung cancer kills more people than prostate cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer combined. Cigarette smoking is obviously the number one cause of lung cancer, and why advocacy for lung cancer prevention tends to wane in comparison to others.

Dr. Zane Hammoud, MD, a Thoracic Surgery provider with Ascension Providence in Novi and Southfield, said the “main issue” he sees is a victimhood associated with lung cancer.

“There is this culture or perception that these people did it to themselves so it’s hard to overcome that and really advocate for the health of those individuals,” Dr. Hammoud said. “We have to do better in terms of education and getting people to understand it is not a fatal disease. We need them to come in and have their screenings done so we can hopefully catch it soon enough and so we can improve their quality of life as well as their quantity of life.”

With education in mind, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently updated its lung screening guidelines to recommend that adults 50-80 years old who have a 20-pack/year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years come in for an annual low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening. Dr. Hammoud said the change, which previously was for adults 55-74 years old and with a 30-pack/year history, “only makes sense” and will lead to a reduction in mortality.

“The problem with lung cancer is that by the time you develop symptoms it is late in the ballgame,” he said. “Any screening test has to catch a disease in the asymptomatic stage to make a difference.”

The vast majority of COPD, emphysema, and lung cancers occur in smokers, but it is not exclusive with about 10-15% occurring in people who never smoked. According to Dr. Hammoud, the risk for a smoker who hasn’t smoked in roughly 20 years almost approaches that of a non-smoking person.

And yes, vaping is just as bad.

"The vaping industry has done a masterful job marketing itself as a safe alternative to smoking and it is simply not true,” Dr. Hammoud said. “The fact of the matter is if you are inhaling a chemical substance into the lungs and the lungs have to then filter that substance and deal with whatever that substance is, just common sense will tell you that’s not a good thing.

“You wouldn’t intentionally inhale chimney smoke because you know it’s bad for your lungs.”

As for how he encourages people to stop smoking, Dr. Hammoud comes back to the education component. Typically, someone has an anxiety or pressure that leads to smoking and his focus is on helping them fi nd better ways to deal with it. Smoking is an addiction, and like addictions to medicine or to alcohol, there is a process to help.

“The same has to apply to smoking and vaping,” he said. “We have to understand the underlying mechanisms and try to deal with the behavior itself rather than just saying, ‘stop it.’”

Start by scheduling an appointment with your doctor to talk about a lung cancer screening today at getascensionmichigancare.com. If you already have an order to get a lung cancer screening, schedule it by calling 866-501-3627 and press option #7.