OHIO VALLEY — According to the Lung Cancer Alliance, lung cancer is an urgent priority among veterans.
Not only is the incidence higher, but the survival rate is lower than in civilian populations. The reasons are numerous, but smoking is cited as one cause, with 32 percent of active duty military personnel who smoke versus 20 percent of the civilian population. The prevalence of smoking is 50 percent higher in those who have been deployed.
The 2010 President’s Cancer Advisory Panel linked 20 agents to lung cancer. Active duty personnel and veterans have been exposed to Agent Orange, radon, asbestos, chromium, diesel exhaust, pesticides, pollutants and particulate matter from oil well fires and destruction of chemical weapons.
Studies in 2010 which were updated in 2014 show a higher rate of lung cancer in Gulf War veterans than other veterans, and lung cancer has been deemed service-connected in Vietnam veterans.
Since November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, Holzer Health Systems decided it would be a good time to a “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer,” with an event at 6 p.m. Nov. 12. The public is invited and Holzer is extending a special invitation to active duty personnel and veteran.
Shine a Light was founded by a lung cancer survivor and caregiver and is the largest coordinated awareness event for lung cancer in the U.S. This is Holzer Health System’s first time participating and officials hope the event will raise awareness in the community.
Sandy Thomas has been a respiratory therapist at Holzer for many years and knows firsthand the struggles of lung cancer patients and their families. Her experience and connection to those diagnosed with lung cancer led her to become a program coordinator with Holzer Health Systems.
“We hope this event will provide hope, inspiration, and support for all of those touched by lung cancer,” said Thomas.“We now have Low Dose CT scan services and are excited to team with Shine a Light to offer this community event. We want people to be aware of the causes of lung cancer, new early diagnosis techniques and treatment options. We also want them to know this is a place they can come for help with questions and diagnosis.”
According to Ken Moore, executive director, Holzer Center for Cancer Care, while lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., it is probably the least publicized form of cancer and receives less funding for research than other cancers.
He and others at Holzer want to emphasis that screening techniques have come a long way, and that chest X-rays are not a good diagnostic tool in early cancer detection.
“Chest X-rays are not good for early detection, only a CT scan can detect lung cancer before symptoms become apparent. It is the only proven method to detect lung cancer early, when it is most treatable,” Moore said.
If left undiagnosed, malignant tumors grow uncontrollably in the body and can block airways. Another danger of lung cancer cells is their ability to break away and spread to other parts of the body through the blood system or the natural fluid around the lung tissue.
The American Cancer Society recommends annual lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scans for patients 55 to 74 years old, in fairly good health, who have at least a 30-pack per year smoking history and are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years.
The Shine a Light event will feature guest speaker Dr. Karen Nelson of Holzer Health System. Dr. Nelson specializes in cardiac and thoracic surgery, esophageal surgery and vascular surgery.
Stephanie Harbour, whose mother, Kay Mayo, was diagnosed and passed away from lung cancer, will also speak.
The public is invited to attend the Shine a Light event on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Holzer Center for Cancer Care to learn more about lung cancer and Holzer’s low dose CT services. Light refreshments will be served.
Contact Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155 Ext. 2551