PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a local lung specialist is hoping to make people more aware of the dangers of smoking as she sees more people pick up the habit during the pandemic.
Cigarette sales are up for the first time in two decades and Dr. Vandana Patel told WAVY that’s not all people are smoking at higher rates.
“It’s just amazing, it blows my mind when I drive up and down any road how many vape parlors are open,” she said.
Dr. Patel is concerned about the rising number of people using vape pens, e-cigarettes and marijuana.
“People coming back to the clinic would say ‘you know I was doing good and now just last two years I’ve started back again.'”
Dr. Patel encourages smokers to keep trying to quit. The dangers related to lung cancer start to reverse right away, she said. “You get 15 years and your risk of cancer goes down pretty much to zero.”
This year, more smokers are eligible for lung cancer screenings. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force changed the guidelines. It now recommends smokers between the ages of 50 and 80, who have smoked 20 years or the equivalent of that based on the number of packs you smoke, get a low dose C-T scan once a year.
“Anything that’s stage one or two is pretty much curable,” Dr. Patel said, adding that she is also seeing great success with what she calls game changing immunotherapy for more advanced cancers. Immunotherapy uses medicine to activate your own immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells.
“The response has been dramatic. I’ve had stage four patients who have lived beyond five years which was unheard of,” she said.
Dr. Patel says treatments and screenings save lives, but the best weapon is kicking the smoking habit or better yet to never pick it up in the first place.