1 in 4 Lung Cancers are in Never Smokers

When every extra day counts, turn to the CyberKnife.

Did you know that “never smokers” make up 28% of new diagnosis of early stage non-small cell lung cancer patients?

 Dr. Eric Lim and colleagues from London looked at 2,170 British men and women who had  lung cancer surgery from March 2008 to November 2014.   

The remarkable finding was that “never-smokers” with lung cancer increased each and every year from 13% in 2007 to 28% in 2013.  And the trend was due to a dramatic increase in the absolute numbers of “never smokers” with lung cancer.   Fifty five percent of those patients with lung cancer were found “incidentally.”  That is to say, their lung cancers were found by CT scans, PET-CT scans, X-rays, or MRI’s ordered for other reasons-not because their physicians suspected lung cancer.  Only 14% of patients had symptoms of lung cancer-like coughing up blood or profound shortness of breath. 

Like many good medical studies, Dr. Lim’s article raises more questions than answers.  Were these lung cancer patients who were “never smokers” exposed to second-hand smoke at home or in the workplace?  What about other exposures, like chemical toxins, in the workplace?  Are there differences in “never-smokers” who live in the city versus out in the country?  What about family history?  Do the same trends hold for people in the US? 

So whether it’s family history, genetics, race or just bad luck remains to be seen.  But the good news is that lung cancer caught early is highly curable.  Cure rates are now in the 80-90% range for 5 years.  And you may not need surgery at all.  Many studies have now shown that Cyber Knife radiosurgery is equal to or even better than open surgery for patients with early stage lung cancer.  And Cyber Knife is done as an outpatient-no incision, no pain, and no long hospital stays; eliminating the complications that go along with surgery.

So if you have any questions about your lung cancer, please free to call me, Dr. Edward Hughes

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