NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
In this week’s Digital Desk conversation, Digital Host Sarah Goode speaks to Dr. Oladunni Enilari, M.D. from Riverside Health System. Enilari discusses risk factors, updated screening guidelines and more. Watch the full conversation in the video player on this page.
Recent changes to lung cancer screening guidelines add recommendations for more than 5 million Americans who are smokers or former smokers.
Enilari says this update makes a huge difference. Removing the previous 15-year restriction opens up screening for people between the ages of 50 to 80 years old who smoke or previously smoked and have a 20 year or greater pack history.
“That’s a whole population that we are currently not screening that will now be eligible.”
For some patients, they are surprised to find out lung cancer screenings exist.
“Some of them are not aware that the screening modality exists until they come to see me, the pulmonologist,” said Enilari.
She says it is widely available, and a primary care provider can place the order for the low dose CT scan.
Screenings can catch cancer at much earlier stages.
If you are able to diagnose lung cancer with the low dose CT at stage 1 or 2, those patients have a chance for a better outcome, and to be free from cancer.
Symptoms of lung cancer can vary.
“Some patients can have lung cancer and are completely asymptomatic,” said Enilari.
Others can experience cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, malaise, weight loss, and more.
“By the time patients have these symptoms, for the most part, they are at an advanced stage,” said Enilari.
Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer.
Although the screening guidelines specify a 20 year or greater pack history average, no level of smoking is okay. And, casual smoking does not reduce your risk for lung cancer and the risk persists. Enilari says it is all or none.
“Smoking even one cigarette here or there increases your risk for lung cancer.”
Secondhand smoke is another risk for developing lung cancer. Prevention includes limiting exposure to people smoking around you.
Not all risk factors can be addressed.
Other possible factors to regulate include exposure to biomass fuels, asbestos or radon. Limiting exposure to those can reduce risk.
Some risk factors which cannot be modified, include:
- Genetic factors
- Underlying interstitial lung diseases
- Former cancer patients from radiation
Vapes and other electronic devices also pose a risk, especially with lack of regulation, said Enilari. Research is still ongoing on links to cancer, but using those devices can also lead to other lung problems or diseases.
Quit smoking is the best way to improve lung health, said Enilari. She says that is the number one thing you can do to prevent dying young.
Another tip she offers patients regularly is exercise. Any type of aerobic exercise is beneficial.
Enilari encourages patients to speak with their pulmonologist or even primary care doctor about lung cancer screenings and risk factors.
For more information about lung cancer visit Riverside’s website at the link here.
Watch the full conversation in the video player on this page to hear more from Dr. Enilari.