According to Harvard Health, when doctors catch lung cancer at a very early stage, they can typically treat it. In some cases, they may even cure it. As the second most common type of cancer, you might think that patients often receive an early diagnosis of the disease. However, most patients do not know they have lung cancer until it reaches later stages, making it more difficult for doctors to treat.
Lung Cancer Survival Rates
Healthline details the survival rates of the two different types of lung cancer. The most aggressive type, small cell lung cancer (SCLC), has a much lower survival rate at any stage of detection. SCLC accounts for approximately 10-15% of all lung cancer cases, and even at its earliest stage, less than one-third of patients can survive lung cancer five years past their SCLC diagnosis.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) makes up the majority of lung cancer diagnoses, or about 85% of all cases. When caught in its early stages, patients have a greater chance of responding to treatment. Doctors classify the progression of NSCLC by stages; Stage 1 represents lung cancer in its earliest form, and Stage 4 refers to its most advanced state.
At Stage 1, NSCLC has a five-year survival rate of up to 92%. At Stage 2, up to 60 out of every 100 patients reach five years post-diagnosis. The lung cancer survival rate continues to drop significantly into Stage 3, when it begins to spread, or metastasize. Unfortunately, symptoms of NSCLC often do not appear until later stages, so many patients do not catch lung cancer early.
Mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, often affects those who worked with or around asbestos, a dangerous carcinogen. The American Cancer Society estimates a five-year survival rate of approximately 30% for individuals diagnosed with the disease.
Lung Cancer Screening for High-Risk Individuals
Thanks to new technology, more patients may begin to receive earlier diagnoses, which may improve their chances of surviving lung cancer. Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) has proven effective in identifying early stages of lung cancer and allowing for an earlier diagnosis in high-risk individuals. The procedure, which takes approximately ten minutes and involves no pain or medications, takes 3D photos of the inside of the body, allowing doctors to spot areas that may indicate cancer.
Doctors currently recommend LDCT to individuals who meet certain criteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), patients should have yearly lung cancer screenings if they:
- Are 55 to 80 years of age
- Have a history of smoking heavily
- Currently smoke or quit smoking within the past 15 years
Medicaid, Medicare, and most insurance plans cover lung cancer screenings for individuals who meet these criteria. However, they may not cover screenings for those who have an increased risk of developing lung cancer due to other risk factors, including:
- Previous radiation to treat cancer
- Family history of chronic lung conditions
- Consumption of arsenic in drinking water
- Exposure to second-hand smoke, radon, asbestos, and other toxic substances
Individuals who could not avoid exposure to dangerous chemicals due to the nature of their work and the failure of their employers to keep them safe must often pay out of pocket for these scans, which may cost up to $400.
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Treatment Options for Lung Cancer
How doctors decide to treat lung cancer varies based on the type of cancer and whether or not it spread. Some patients require only one type of treatment, while others receive a combination of medications and procedures.
Some patients may survive cancer caught in its early stages if they undergo surgery to remove the affected tissue, especially if the cancer still remains localized to a specific area. For patients who need more advanced treatments, doctors may recommend chemotherapy, a drug used to shrink or kill cancer cells, and/or radiation, a type of treatment similar to an X-ray that may kill cancer. Some doctors also use a treatment called immunotherapy, which uses biological elements to boost the body’s immune system and encourage it to fight the cancer on its own.
The Attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Can Help
The early detection of lung cancer increases your odds of survival. However, no treatment offers a guarantee, and if you have an increased risk of lung cancer due to exposure to dangerous substances, you may have trouble accessing a lung cancer screening to prevent a late diagnosis.
If you experienced exposure to asbestos, radon, second-hand smoke, or other toxic chemicals in the workplace and developed lung cancer as a result, the attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can help you hold the responsible party accountable and seek financial awards. Call us today at (800) 794-0444 to talk to our legal team about your free case evaluation.