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Lung Cancer Kills More Hoosiers Than Any Other Cancer

November 23, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - More people die from lung cancer than from colon, breast, prostate, liver, kidney and melanoma cancers combined, according to the American Lung Association.

Dr. Richard Freeman, director of cancer services for St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, says cigarettes remain the number-one cause of lung cancer.

"The only thing that has been shown to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer is to either quit smoking if you smoke, don't start if you don't smoke, and don't be around it if you don't smoke."

Some very small groups of people develop lung cancer from being exposed to radon gas which is prevalent in Indiana, Freeman says.

There are no early warning symptoms for lung cancer, he says.

"The majority of patients who have lung cancer are asymptomatic for quite an extended period of time. That's why 75 percent of the people who are diagnosed with lung cancer are already at an advanced stage when they're diagnosed."

Freeman says his hospital is taking the lead in screening for lung cancer in high-risk patients by offering a low-dose CAT scan to detect cancer early when it's more treatable.

"The medical evidence is compelling - it finds cancer early. It reduces the chance of dying from the lung cancer. We're going to do it at a greatly reduced cost to the patient - meaning we're going to lose money on it - but it's the right thing to do."

Freeman says Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers aren't yet covering the cost of the screening procedure.

For every $1,200 spent on lung cancer research, Lung Association statistics show, $27,000 is spent on breast cancer research.

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN