Walk with a Doc: Dr. James Fox will discuss lung cancer Nov. 2

Published on Tuesday, 24 October 2017 20:18 - Written by

James G. Fox, MD, assistant professor of medicine with UT Health Northeast's Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, leads the Nov. 2 Walk with A Doc. 

He will discuss lung cancer.

Walk With a Doc, a project of the Smith County Medical Society, begins with registration at 5:45 p.m. The presentation begins at 6 p.m. at the Copeland Road trailhead, followed by walking.

This is the last Walk with a Doc for 2017, with walks set to resume in March. Cook with a Doc will begin Dec. 7 at Natural Grocers with Dr. Shreya Patel.

Q. How common is lung cancer in the United States?

A. According to the American Cancer Society lung cancer is the second most common cancer type in the United States in both men and women (not counting skin cancers), following behind prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. About 14 percent of all new diagnosed cancers are lung cancers, and lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women. More people die of lung cancer each year than colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer combined. It is predicted that there will be about 222,500 new cases of lung cancer and about 155,870 lung cancer-related deaths in 2017.

Q. What are some of the avoidable risk factors for developing lung cancer?

A. The primary avoidable risk factor for developing lung cancer is tobacco smoke with about 80 percent of lung cancer deaths thought to be related to smoking. The risk is similar for cigarettes, cigar smoking and pipe smoking. Even second-hand smoke exposure can increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Other risk factors include exposure to radon, asbestos and some other carcinogens located in the workplace.

Q. Many smokers do not get lung cancer while some nonsmokers develop lung cancer. Is lung cancer mainly genetic or environmental?

A. Lung cancer is in very large part environmental as it relates to exposure to tobacco smoke and other carcinogens, but about 15 to 20 percent of lung cancers do occur in those who have not smoked. It is not quantifiable how much risk is related to a person's genetics versus other harmful exposures they may have had, although genetics is felt to play some role in families who have a strong history of lung cancer. The role of genetics is an ongoing area of research at this time.

Q. Are there approved screening tests for people at high risk for lung cancer? X-ray? CT scans?

A. Lung cancer screening has been approved by many national medical societies, government agencies, and insurance providers after a large clinical trial in the United States was published in 2011 showing that the use of low dose CT scan to screen high-risk patients for lung cancer decreased death related to lung cancer by 20 percent. These patients were age 55 to 80, had a moderate to heavy history of smoking, continued to smoke or had quit within 15 years, and were known to be healthy enough to undergo treatment for lung cancer if it was diagnosed. The low dose CT scan is a CT scan taking about 30 seconds to complete while administering only about 20 percent of the usual radiation dose of a normal CT scan of the chest. It does not require IV contrast and is safe in those with allergies to intravenous contrast and kidney disease, and since it is not an MRI it is also safe for those who have metalic implants in their body such as pacemakers and surgical hardware. A patient can speak with their primary care provider if they feel that they may meet the criteria for lung cancer screening.