By Andrew Davison
I lost my dad to lung cancer. Thirteen years later, I was diagnosed with the same illness that took his life.
The difference was that he smoked two packs of cigarettes day, and I did not.
While I did smoke occasionally in my early 20s, I have been active and healthy for most of my life. But whether a person smokes or not shouldn't matter in how we approach lung cancer patients. Through my lung cancer treatment journey, I've learned we need to end the stigma surrounding lung cancer.
My lung cancer diagnosis
Almost four months ago, I was riding on top of the world, literally. In the midst of a five-hour mountain bike ride at a ski resort in Colorado, I crashed. I was a little banged up and went in to get checked out. After a few stitches and a chest x-ray, I was cleared to go home with a bag of ice and some ibuprofen.
Two hours later, while grilling at a summer BBQ, I missed a call from the clinic. The doctor left a voicemail saying that, after a second review, the radiologist had noticed a spot on the upper apex of my left lung. He said it was probably nothing, perhaps even just some scar tissue, and that I should schedule a CT scan. I turned to my wife and said, "There is no way that is good news."
Recently in Smoking Category
By Andrew Davison
By Brittany Cordeiro
Each day in the United States, about 4,000 kids smoke their first cigarette. Many of them will become daily smokers.
"For teens, it may seem cool to smoke. But tobacco use at a young age can cause immediate and long-term health problems like cancer," says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program at MD Anderson.
Recent data shows that the declining number of teen tobacco users has stalled. And, the tobacco industry may be to blame.
The industry advertises products, like e-cigarettes, flavored cigarillos and hookahs, as "safe" and is capturing the attention of kids.
"All tobacco products are dangerous," Prokhorov says. "We need to be proactive about educating our communities, schools and governments about the dangers of these products."
Use the facts below to educate kids about the health risks of trendy tobacco products.
Cigar use among high school students rose from 7% in 2009 to 12% in 2011. One main factor: flavored cigarillos.
With a steady decline in traditional cigarettes, tobacco companies are looking for new ways to get people addicted to smoking.
Now, with the third largest U.S. tobacco company launching a massive campaign to promote electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, smoking may be on rise again. In fact, about 6% of adults have tried e-cigarettes, a number that has nearly doubled since 2010, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The e-cigarette is a smokeless electronic device that allows the user to inhale a vapor of liquid nicotine in order to imitate traditional
smoking methods. The new gadget is touted as safe and harmless by tobacco
companies, but our tobacco prevention and cessation experts tell a different
e-cigarettes are 'safe' are misleading
"We've been telling society for the past 30 years that they shouldn't smoke, and that tobacco is bad," says Paul Cinciripini, Ph.D., director of MD Anderson's Tobacco Treatment Program. "But tobacco companies are smart and have a good marketing strategy when it comes to promoting new products."
When a massive clinical trial about lung cancer screening shows a benefit to current and former smokers, why can it take so long to become accessible for most people?
A draft recommendation by a federal task force in favor of using low-dose CT scans to screen past and current heavy smokers for lung cancer provides insight about the time lag.
The recommendation says that low-dose spiral CT lung cancer screening is only appropriate for those who:
• Are 55 to 80 years old
• Have a 30-pack-year history of smoking (which translates to 1 pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
• Smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years
companies expected to cover CT lung cancer screening for smokers
The task force carefully sorts the pros and cons of a preventive procedure before recommending for or against. Its rulings are highly influential, so both governmental and private health insurers tend to wait for its recommendations before deciding whether to pay for a procedure, Munden says.
The task force's recommended B rating for the procedure, subject to a comment period that ends Aug. 26, is significant. Right now, 95% of the people who want screening have to pay for it out-of-pocket, because only two health insurance companies cover it. Medicare and Medicaid don't reimburse for it, but the task force's recommendation is expected to change that.
"The implications are huge," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center. "Health plans, under the Affordable Care Act, are required to cover any screening or service given an A or B rating by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. They're not only required to cover it, but to cover it without any co-payment or deductible so the patient is able to get this at no out-of-pocket cost."
One in two men will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. And, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in American men, just behind lung cancer.
So, what can men do to protect themselves from cancer? We recently spoke with John Papadopoulos, M.D., assistant professor of Urology. He works at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Katy.
Here's what Dr. Papadopoulos had to say.
What are some easy tips for men to help men prevent cancer?
There are a lot of things men can do to protect themselves from cancer:
- Avoid tobacco - even celebratory cigars - and limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day.
- Maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active each day.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Make fruits and vegetables the biggest part of every meal and go easy on the meat. Limit the amount of red meat you eat to 18 oz. week and avoid processed meats like hot dogs and pepperoni.
- Wear sunscreen and practice sun safety.
- See a doctor regularly and get the screening exams you need. Many men avoid seeing a doctor because they're afraid, but if you do have a chronic disease like cancer, diabetes or heart disease, the earlier we catch it, the easier it will be to treat.
Keep in mind that doing these things doesn't guarantee you won't get cancer. But living a healthy lifestyle can put you in fighting shape if you do develop cancer.
What cancer screening exams do men need? And, when should most men start screening?
Most men need both a prostate exam (digital rectal exam and PSA test) and a colonoscopy starting at age 50. This is the appropriate age for screening if you don't have a family history (father, son, brother) of prostate or colon cancer and you're not African American, which can make you more likely to develop these cancers.
By Mary Dewberry
In January 1989, MD Anderson went smoke-free. It happened the same month and year that I started working here.
Now when people see me, they think of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout (GASO) and saying no to tobacco. That's because for 23 years, I've helped coordinate GASO's logistics and direct people to resources here at MD Anderson during the event, which is held every November.
But for me, GASO isn't about trying to quit for one day or one week. It's about providing resources to help year-round.
Here are a few of the resources I recommend to those trying to quit.
Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer
With nearly one in five teens smoking cigarettes, there is no better advocate for smoking-cessation than Breanna Jordan, a senior at Stone Mountain High, a school nestled in DeKalb County in Georgia.
As a member of the National Honor Society, varsity cheerleader squad and active participant of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) - a student-run program that discourages students from drinking, smoking and engaging in destructive behaviors - Jordan is no stranger to peer pressure and what's popular among teens.
"Smoking is the in thing to do for those going through the cool phase," says Jordan. "There is a lot of stress that comes with being a teenager, and some think that smoking among other things helps relieve that stress."
Jordan says it is not only the hygiene problems - bad breath, bad teeth and body odor - that have made her say no to smoking, but diseases like cancer that concern her. Jordan, like most people, has either had a personal experience with cancer or knows someone whose life has been touched by the disease. Just last year her aunt died of a non-smoking related cancer - ovarian cancer.
By Will Fitzgerald, MD Anderson Staff Writer
A first-of-its-kind study has found that CT scans detect lung cancer at an earlier, curable stage in the population at highest risk compared to traditional X-rays -- resulting in 20% fewer deaths from the disease. Until now, there's been no recommended screening tool to detect early lung cancer. However, these results may be a major breakthrough.
MD Anderson was one of 33 sites that participated in the NCI-led trial. Reggie Munden, M.D., professor in the Department of Thoracic Imaging, is the study's principal investigator at MD Anderson. In this video, he explains the findings, significance and hope that could transform the way lung cancer is detected and treated.
Lung cancer trial results show mortality benefit with low-dose CT (NCI news release)
Video from ABC News
Matthew Ballo, M.D., is a radiation oncologist at the MD
Anderson Regional Care Center in the Bay Area. His passion for survivorship and
post-treatment care led to the creation of the Road to Wellness program in
2007. Today the program is open to breast cancer and prostate cancer patients
treated at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in the Bay Area. MD Anderson's
main campus offers a number of programs and clinics for survivors, but the Bay
Area location is the first of the institution's regional care centers to offer
By: Matthew Ballo, M.D.
When I began training at MD Anderson I observed that fatigue was a common problem in patients receiving radiation. Since there were few active interventions to address the issue at the time, I pledged that when I moved my practice to the Bay Area, I would work to find diet and exercise solutions to relieve fatigue.
As the idea of the program began to grow, it became apparent that fatigue was only one of several quality of life issues that patients faced. I started thinking more globally about issues such as stress management and smoking cessation and soon realized this program fit under the emerging discipline of survivorship.
In 2007 we began the Road to Wellness program, which offers lifestyle rehabilitation programs to transition patients from active cancer care to survivors who are preparing for life post-treatment.
Cancer survivors have unrecognized and untreated aftereffects of cancer treatment, so we put two and two together and created a program that addresses fatigue and the global issues of quality of life in cancer patients undergoing treatment. This program prepares patients for survivorship by equipping them with the tools necessary to be healthy cancer survivors.
The Road to Wellness is a five-step program:
- Initial consultation. Studies show that the majority of patients prefer to undergo lifestyle counseling at the time of diagnosis rather than after treatment.
- Consultation with an exercise physiologist. A tailored exercise regimen is created for each patient based on cardiovascular and resistance testing.
- Nutritional consultation. Patients meet with an MD Anderson registered dietician and undergo counseling regarding specific diet modifications endorsed by the World Cancer Research Fund for reducing cancer risks.
- Meeting with a social worker. A social worker performs a needs assessment and teaches stress management skills. Patients may be directed to support groups or other resources in the community that they can attend.
- Smoking cessation, if needed. MD Anderson's Tobacco Treatment Program is a comprehensive tobacco-cessation program that may consist of face-to-face and telephone behavioral counseling, nicotine replacement therapies and tobacco-treatment prescription medications.
By: Maurie Markman M.D.
The two most prevalent causes of head and neck cancers are tobacco use and human papillomavirus exposure. Maurie Markman, M.D., vice president for clinical research at M. D. Anderson, reviews a study reported in Clinical Cancer Research last month on what happens when a patient has HPV exposure and uses tobacco.
The study looked at 124 patients with advanced oropharyngeal cancer, or cancer of the tonsils or the base of the tongue. Of the HPV-positive patients who had never used tobacco, 6% had a recurrence of their cancer. Meanwhile, 19% of former tobacco users and 35% of current tobacco users had a recurrence.
Tobacco Use Linked to Worse Outcomes in HPV-Positive Head and Neck Cancer (Science Daily)
Head and Neck Cancers (MD Anderson)
Supporters of the e-cigarette see it as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. After all, it produces no smoke and uses rechargeable batteries. It's even promoted as a new way to get around public smoking bans. But this nicotine delivery device is not safe. Groups like the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have called for its removal from the market.
Joel Dunnington, M.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Diagnostic Radiology, and Rob Watkins, a puppet from Too Cool to Smoke: with The Kids on the Block, chime in on the growing debate.
Puppet appears courtesy of The Kids on the Block, Inc., Columbia, Maryland, www.kotb.com.
If you are in the Houston area, request a visit from Rob. Too Cool to Smoke: with The Kids on the Block puppet show is a free tobacco awareness program for children in kindergarten through fourth grade.
So what do YOU think? Let us know your take on the e-cigarette controversy.
Become a fan of Too Cool to Smoke on Facebook
Visit our website to learn more about smoking and tobacco, including how to quit.
Connect on social media
- Confronting the lung cancer stigma
- E-cigarettes, cigarillos and hookahs: Latest tobacco trends target youth
- The dangers and risks of e-cigarettes
- Tobacco-Free Teens app helps youth quit smoking
- Lung cancer screening for smokers moves toward standard of care
- Cancer in men: What you should know
- How to quit smoking
- Seeing Past the Smoke Screen
- Lung Cancer Screening Clinical Trial Yields Promising Results
- Traveling the Road to Wellness
- Cancer Prevention (123)
- Cancer Research (143)
- Education (71)
- Patient Care (313)
- Global Navigation
- About Us
- How You Can Help
- Children's Art Project
- Contact Us
- Patient and Cancer Information
- Cancer Information
- Patient Information
- Care Centers & Clinics
- Children’s Cancer Hospital
- Services & Amenities
- Clinical Trials
- News and Publications
- Education and Research
- Departments, Programs & Labs
- Research at MD Anderson
- Education & Training
- Resources for Professionals
- For Employees
- Employee Resources
- Doing Business
- Vendors & Suppliers
- Partners & Affiliates
- State of Texas
- State of Texas Home Page
- Statewide Search (TRAIL)
- State Comptroller - Where the Money Goes
- Texas Homeland Security
- The University of Texas System
- Institution Resume
- Legal and Policy
- Legal Statements & Site Policies
- Stay Connected
- Emergency Alerts
- Emergency Alert Information