Austin doctors highlight progress in lung cancer treatement

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lung cancer claims more lives than all other cancers combined. 200,000 Americans are diagnosed every year and 150,000 will die. As Lung Cancer Awareness Month came to a close in November, the Seton Cancer Care Collaborative pointed to the progress it has made and how you can be the best deterrent of all.

One procedure being used more widely is called video assisted thoracic surgery – VATS. It involves less invasive lung cancer surgery, no chest cracking and a much quicker recovery time. Doctors use this method in 30% of cases, and that number continues growing.

“It’s hard to learn how to do,” Thoracic surgeon Dr. Daniel Fortes explained. “Now we’re getting a generation that has gone through the training how to do that. Getting older, surgeons to adapt to a new technique is difficult because it’s not something they’re used to.”

Navigational Bronchoscopy is another method that can lead to earlier diagnosis with no cutting. If surgery is ruled out it can also pinpoint targets for radiation. “What this offers us is a chance to go in, a day procedure, noninvasively drive a catheter all the way out to a mass or small nodule and get a diagnosis,” said pulmonary care specialist Dr. J.D. Hinze.

The Cancer Care Collaborative also offers six free weekly meetings to help smokers quit the habit. 90% of lung cancer is related to smoking, and experts say quitting is more successful if you do it with others you know.

“You may not have someone in your life, in your other support system, that understands what is going on,” explained Kristy Miguez, a certified tobacco training specialist. “But come to class every week and the whole class knows and appreciates what you are going through.”

That class has a stick-with-it rate of 60% after six months. Most dropouts come after the second or third week, when the withdrawal pangs hit, but the group is there to support you. After all, getting rid of the smoking habit may be your ultimate lung cancer defense, especially until treatment options progress even further.

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