BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in Louisiana. It’s deadlier than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and doctors at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center say there’s hope in the form of early detection and expanded treatment options.
“I was basically in shock,” said a recent survivor, Olga. “I think I didn’t even really process the situation I was in.”
Healthy her entire life, Olga was diagnosed with a small spot of lung cancer less than an inch in size. It was flagged on a routine chest x-ray.
“Because lung cancers tend to be asymptomatic, we’ve traditionally caught them at a very late stage, and at that point, our options are limited,” explained Dr. Emily Cassidy, a surgeon at the cancer center. Cassidy successfully removed Olga’s cancer before it spread to her lymph nodes.
The doctor says early detection is expanding, and the lung cancer mortality rate is falling, already by 20% when a patient is screened with a low-dose CT scan.
It’s also thanks to talented physicians using advanced technology like surgical robots. That’s how Olga’s cancer was removed.
“Instead of rigid instruments where you’re kind of using like chopsticks, these instruments move just like your hands, but they’re [very small],” Cassidy said.
The instruments fit through incisions that are only 8 to 12 millimeters. The surgeon controls them remotely from a console in the corner of the operating room. The minimally-invasive technique means shorter recovery time and more eligible patients.
“Now, we’ve seen good results with patients in their 80s,” Cassidy said. “We give them a tray of liquids or food in the recovery room. We bring them up to their room, and they walk into their room after lung surgery. It’s amazing.”
But that surgery is usually not possible without early detection. A low-dose CT scan is recommended for any current or former smokers ages 55 to 75.
“If I had not had these screenings, I could have or would have ended up perhaps in an impossible situation where nothing could have been done,” Olga said.
If you’d like to be screened for lung cancer, you can call the Mary Bird Perkins - Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center at 225-230-2525, or make an appointment online.