PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Of all types of cancer, lung cancer kills more people than others, according to a local oncologist. Smoking is still the leading cause of lung cancer and even those who no longer smoke could still be at risk.
Like many cancers, local oncologist Dr. Thomas Johnson said many people could be walking around with lung cancer and not know it.
“With a curable lung cancer, the most common symptom by far and away is nothing,” said Ascension Sacred Heart Oncologist, Dr. Thomas Johnson.
Dr. Johnson said the vast majority of curable lung cancers are detected accidentally or through screening procedures. He recommends anyone age 50 and older who currently smokes, or quit within the last 15 years, should get screened.
“In our country, probably close to three-quarters of patients are stage three or four at diagnosis,” Johnson said. “That’s why we’re screening. We hope to increase that proportion of early-stage patients that can be cured.”
Dr. Johnson said symptoms typically don’t show up until someone already has stage four lung cancer. He said the most common symptoms are constant coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, and coughing up blood.
Early screening can not only identify the disease early, but also reduce treatment times on the road to a possible cure. Those newer, improved treatments now include immunotherapy, oral treatments, and infrequent IV treatments.
“The targeted therapies don’t have the attendant side effects that we, you know, typically associated with chemotherapy, with hair loss and nausea and vomiting, those things,” Dr. Johnson said. “While we’re doing much better with those side effects, even with the intravenous treatments, it’s still a thing. If you could tell a patient, no, you don’t have to worry about those things, that’s one less burden.”
If you’re a smoker and want to quit, Dr. Johnson recommends Florida’s tobacco-free resources, which are free and easy to access.