Health Plus: Why lung cancer survival odds could improve - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Health Plus: Why lung cancer survival odds could improve

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Lung cancer kills more men and women than any other type of the disease.

And since most cases are caught late, survival rates are not good.

In Health Plus, why screenings and new treatments could change that.

As a radiologist, Dr. David Olson understands how much early detection can make a difference for lung cancer patients--but trouble is, they usually don't have symptoms until it's advanced.

"It's usually how most people are diagnosed is because they present with symptoms by the time they have symptoms it's usually too late," he said.

That's why some in the medical community are calling for lung cancer screenings for people at high risk--like longtime smokers.

"If you can uncover cancer prior to presenting symptoms then presumably you're finding earlier cancers which are more treatable and potentially curable," he said.

With only about 15 percent of lung cancer patients surviving after five years, doctors like Cassandra Foens at Waterloo's Covenant Cancer Treatment Center are hopeful new treatments will change those statistics.

"For those who are being caught at an earlier stage we do have a new customized radiation therapy technique called stereo tactic body radio therapy where if the lymph nodes are not involved and you just have a very small tumor rather than treating you for 6 or 7 weeks, we can treat you in 5 days over a week and-a-half," said Dr. Foens.

As for stopping lung cancer before it spreads, Foens agrees screenings make sense.

"I think it is something that's coming. The difficulty obviously is the cost-benefit ratio."

Screenings for lung cancer are expensive--something that could limit insurance coverage to pay for them.

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