World Lung Cancer Day | Thomas Varghese, MD


One of the biggest things is it’s a silent
epidemic. Lung cancer is the most lethal cancer out
there. More deaths arise from lung cancer worldwide
compared to breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. In the United States, 433 people die each
day from lung cancer. Yet, nobody really knows about it. The reality is that if you look at the fastest
growing population of lung cancers, is actually in non-smokers. We need to be more vigilant and we need to
do more efforts targeted at detecting, diagnosing, and treating lung cancer. Right now, it’s targeting long-term tobacco
users. People who have 30-pack year tobacco use,
between the ages of 55 and 77, who continue to smoke or have quit in the last 15 years,
the standard recommendation is having a low-dose CT scan once a year. We also know that there are other high-risk
groups. If a person has had a prior history of cancer,
like a head and neck cancer, they’re at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. If they have had an extensive family history
of lung cancer, they could be at risk. Even though the nationally endorsed guidelines
are on that high-risk tobacco use group, the reality is that there are probably many more
groups that are at risk for developing lung cancer. For the public at large, we want to make sure
that they are also aware of concerning symptoms. These concerning symptoms could be a new cough
that just doesn’t go away, a change of voice or hoarse voice, or a new onset shortness
of breath which can’t be explained by other medical conditions; those are all warning
signs where we would recommend those individuals seek care from their physicians and part of
that work may include a CT scan as well. The efforts that are done to detect it in
an earlier stage—you have better outcomes. The flipside is, even if you are diagnosed
at a later stage, the key thing is we have plenty of options available. When you think about surgical interventions,
you have the open traditional technique—make big incisions, spread the ribs, to go in and
resect lungs. Then, we have the next iteration of that which
is minimally invasive surgery. The video assisted thoracoscopic technique. The robot really is the next leap forward
from that and we’re the first program in the Intermountain West region that has done robotic
surgery for lung cancer. What we expect is, as with any other new technology,
it’s part of our comprehensive evaluation for the patient and it’s part of the modalities
that are available for each and every single one of our patients. What we want to do is have all the array or
different modalities available, but it’s really a personalized touch. We figure out what technology, what intervention
is really the best for the patient each and every single time.