FAQs

Palmer Lung Cancer FAQs

At Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center, our staff wants to make sure all of your questions are answered and every concern is addressed. Our professional, caring staff make your knowledge and comfort our number one priority as we work with you and your doctors to battle your lung cancer. The board-certified radiologists in Palmer are experts in treating lung cancer with a variety of radiotherapy technologies that are proven effective. We are happy to discuss your treatment options and make sure you receive every possible chance for the best outcomes. Here are a few of the most often asked questions.

There are some risks with lung cancer screening including false positives and exposure to low levels of radiation. These should be discussed with your doctor. However, because lung cancer is often not detected until in its later stages when the chance for successful treatment is less possible, you may want to consider lung cancer screenings in some cases.  In a 2011 study, researchers showed that CT scans reduced lung cancer mortality by 20%. Talk to your doctor if you have a higher chance of developing lung cancer such as those who:

  • Are aged 55 to 77 (or 80 for some private insurers)
  • Have at least a 30 pack-year history of smoking
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years

Medicare and Medicaid services, and many private insurance companies, will pay for yearly screenings but only for people who qualify using these criterion.

Unfortunately, you may not know you have lung cancer until it is diagnosed by accident in a lung X-ray that was taken for something else. The first symptoms are often the same symptoms that one might have from a host of other ailments, including the common cold. Once the cancer progresses into later stages, you may have some of all of the following symptoms:

  • Constant coughing that gets worse
  • Repeating pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Out of breath and wheezing
  • Unending chest pain
  • Neck and face swelling
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Hoarse voice
  • Tiredness
  • Bone pain
  • Headache

Once these symptoms appear, your doctor will likely order a CT scan and X-rays to look for abnormal cell groupings in your lungs. If they find what they believe to be abnormal cells, they will likely conduct additional testing including a biopsy to verify that cancer is or is not present. Then, your Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center experts will team with your medical team to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

Second opinions are valuable in confirming your initial diagnosis and your doctor should not hesitate to recommend this. The cancer experts at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center often give second opinions to patients and offer the added benefit of consulting with your primary oncologists in determining the best treatment options available.

It is important to remember that every person has his or her own type and severity of lung cancer and can respond to lung cancer treatment in different ways. What might not be as effective for one person, can be extremely effective for someone else. However, lung cancer has only a four percent survival rate after five-years, one of the lowest of all the cancers. Part of the reason for that is the delay in recognizing and diagnosing lung cancer early. When it is found early, before spreading, the survival rate increases to 55 percent.

Absolutely. All research shows that smoking is a serious contributing factor in causing small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. Smoking contributes 80% of lung cancer deaths in women and 90% in men. Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Women are 13 times more likely, compared to people who have never smoked. Between 2005 and 2010, an average of 130,659 Americans died of lung cancer from smoking each year (source: American Cancer Society).

Yes. Researchers believe that nonsmokers have a 20% to 30% greater chance of developing lung cancer if they are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work.

Radon, a naturally occurring gas produced by decomposing uranium in the earth, is the culprit for about 20% of lung cancer deaths each year. This tasteless, odorless gas, is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and often combines with smoking to increase risk even more. Lung cancer risks can also increase for those who are exposed at work to asbestos, uranium, and coke (a fuel made from coal). The combination of asbestos exposure and smoking greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

There are several treatments for lung cancer including surgery, chemotherapy, and a variety of radiation therapies. The treatment options vary depending on your type and stage of lung cancer. You will find a comprehensive array of radiation therapies at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center. Visit our Detection and Treatment page to find details about the radiology services available to you.

High doses of radiation are used to kill cancer cells during cancer treatment. This radiation can also affect surrounding tissue and organs. Because of the advanced technology at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center, the damage to surrounding tissue is greatly minimized, giving you fewer side effects. However, general side effects from radiation include fatigue and skin irritations (itching, peeling, dryness, redness) at the site of the radiation. Side effects from lung cancer radiation treatment may also include difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, lung or nipple soreness, stiff shoulder, fever and cough, and fibrosis (scarring of the lungs).

Use these links to find out more about lung cancer:

Give Us A Call To Discuss Your Treatment Options

Check out all the lung cancer treatment options at Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center. Contact your Palmer oncologists at 907-707-1333 and make your appointment today. Our experts will answer all of your questions and explain all of our advanced treatment options in detail. Our cancer doctors and staff look forward to working together with you and your doctors to implement the best treatment possible for you.