From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

June 12, 2020

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of both men and women in the U.S. It has one of the lowest five-year survival rates of all cancer types.

Lung cancer can be treated more successfully when it is found early. However, it is hard to recognize because it may take years for the lung cancer to grow and in the early stages is typically symptom free. By the time you notice a problem, the cancer has often spread to other parts of your body making it a real challenge to manage.

One key to early detection of lung cancer is a better understanding of the disease. Unfortunately, many patients are misinformed and fail to seek medical care until the cancer has progressed to later stages.

“There are a lot of myths out there about lung cancer,” said David M. Waterhouse, MD, MPH, medical oncologist, hematologist and co-director of research at OHC. “As a result, some people may delay getting checked or treated for it. This is disturbing because we’re seeing some excellent results using immunotherapy and other newer approaches.”

For perspective, historically, non-small cell lung cancer has been universally considered a fatal disease. Statistical data indicate patients with stage 4 NSCLC who were treated with traditional chemotherapy had a 5-year survival rate of only 2%.

But, cutting edge therapeutic advances are offering new hope.

“Results from a recent study presented late last year at the IASLC World Conference on Lung Cancer in Barcelona, Spain, show the 5-year survival rate increased to 13% when patients were treated with immunotherapy drugs. And OHC was at the forefront of this research,” said Dr. Waterhouse, who serves as the principal investigator for lung cancer trials at OHC.

“We have patients at OHC who have survived beyond five years and they’re enjoying life,” Dr. Waterhouse added. “That’s why we want people to know the facts versus the myths, so not only can they take steps to reduce their risk of developing lung cancer, but if they are diagnosed with it, there is no reason to give up hope.”

The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the more likely you will live longer. Here are six widely held myths about lung cancer that are getting in the way of patients seeing a doctor, so an earlier diagnosis could be made.


Myth #1: Only smokers get lung cancer.

Fact: The majority of people who develop lung cancer are ex-smokers. Ten percent of people overall are lifelong non-smokers.

Myth #2: There is no test for lung cancer.

Fact: You can now get a low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends annual lung cancer screening for people at higher risk for lung cancer who meet the following conditions:

  • Adults age 55 and older who are current or former smokers
  • People who have smoked one pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years
  • People who once smoked heavily but quit
  • People with a history of lung cancer
  • People who have other risk factors for lung cancer including those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), those with a family history of lung cancer and those who are exposed to asbestos at work

Myth #3: Lung cancer is a death sentence.

Fact: Even if a lung cancer is not curable, it is still treatable. And treatment can often extend life and help lessen some of the symptoms of cancer as well, offering patients the opportunity to enjoy life. “I didn’t think I’d be here a year after my diagnosis,” said OHC lung cancer survivor Kathleen Chapman. “I am so happy to be alive! I’m enjoying life and I’m closer with my family and friends. I’m glad I didn’t give up.”

Myth #4: If I already have lung cancer, it doesn’t pay to quit smoking.

Fact: A study by the National Cancer Institute confirms that it is never too late to stop smoking, even if you are older. And the earlier you quit, the longer you are likely to live. Also kicking the habit can raise the success rate of surgery, makes treatment more effective, and lowers your risk of dying from causes other than lung cancer.

Myth #5: I am too old for my lung cancer to be treated.

Fact: Age alone should never be the only factor considered when determining whether a lung cancer is treated. “Just because someone is older doesn’t mean they won’t live another 5 or 10 years after treatment,” Dr. Waterhouse said. “We treat many patients who are in their 80s. We’re giving them more time with their family and friends.”

Myth #6: There is nothing I can do to lower my risk of lung cancer.

Fact: Cigarette smoking causes about 80% – 90% of lung cancer deaths in the United States. “The most important thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is to not start smoking, or quit if you smoke,” said Dr. Waterhouse. Some environmental exposures such as radon can raise your risk, and occupational exposures account for 13% – 29% of lung cancers in men. A healthy diet and exercise appear to lower risk.

Education to encourage earlier diagnosis and advances in medicine are two keys to extending the 5-year survival rate for lung cancer. In addition to busting myths, the nationally recognized experts at OHC aggressively attack your cancer with leading edge approaches and therapies; while the clinical trials team works to qualify new treatment options to beat lung cancer.

“At one time, a diagnosis of lung cancer was usually terminal. Now we’re treating it and many patients are living a full life,” said Dr. Waterhouse. “It’s almost become more like a chronic condition like diabetes and heart disease. Soon, with continued research and clinical trials, we’ll be beating it. We will not quit until everyone with cancer is cured.”

To learn about the progress experts at OHC are making to treat lung cancer, click here. OHC also offers lung cancer clinical trials through its nationally acclaimed research program. This provides patients with early access to promising new treatments. For more information or a complete list of clinical trials, click here. If you want to see about having your cancer treated by an OHC doctor, visit and click Request An Appointment to get a second opinion, or simply call 1-888-649-4800.

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