Men’s Health: Lung Cancer Is Oft-Veiled Killer

by Symptom Advice on October 4, 2011

Published: Friday, September 23, 2011 at 10:57 p.m. last Modified: Friday, September 23, 2011 at 10:57 p.m.

LAKELAND | Prostate cancer gets the lion’s share of attention when men’s health is the topic of discussion, in large part because so many men are living with it.


Both cancer centers in Lakeland do clinical trials for a variety of cancers, including lung cancer. Center for Cancer Care and Research’s contact number for those trials is 863-688-6826. its information can be found online at under clinical trials. Lakeland Regional Cancer Center’s number for clinical trials is 863-904-1900 or go to for information.

Far less is heard about lung cancer, but it kills more men each year in the United States than any other cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates 156,940 people will die this year from cancers of the lung and bronchus — approximately 85,600 men and 71,340 women.

Not only does lung cancer affect a significant portion of the population in the United states, it is also a very unrelenting disease.

“With lung cancer, the survival rate is not as high,” said Robin Stewart, manager of clinical research at Lakeland Regional Cancer Center. “There’s a lot of research going on with lung cancer, but it’s not a disease with survivors pushing for a lot more things.”

Stewart and Dr. Fred Schreiber, a veteran Watson Clinic oncologist, agree on the chief cause of lung cancer and the best prevention.

“The best policy is avoid it, which means don’t smoke,” Schreiber said. “It’s a deadly cancer because it’s usually found in an advanced stage rather than early.”

Lung cancer tends to be faster growing and more prone to spread than prostate cancer, Schreiber said,

That explains in part why lung cancer isn’t detected until the later stages for many patients, said Stewart, an oncology nurse with a doctorate in human services.

Another reason is that people are in denial about their risk of getting lung cancer, said Noreen McGowan, a registered nurse who heads Watson Clinic’s clinical trials programs.

They advocate abstaining from smoking and said for people who do smoke, quitting is the best deterrent.

Those who won’t quit or feel they can’t quit should, at minimum, avoid smoking in enclosed spaces where they will get exposed to both first- and second-hand smoke, Stewart said.

Persistent coughing, shortness of breath and changes in a person’s type of coughing can be symptoms of lung cancer, they said, although those can signal other illnesses as well.

Clinical trials involving various combinations of drugs for lung-cancer treatment take place at both Lakeland cancer centers: LRCC, which has cancer doctors employed by Lakeland Regional Medical Center; and Center for Cancer Care and Research, which has cancer doctors from Watson Clinic and Clark and Daughtrey Medical Group.

Trials often involve combinations of standard chemotherapy and new experimental drugs.

The only trial current enrolling new patients at LRCC pairs an unnamed experimental drug with the now-standard combination of carboplatin, paclitaxel and bevacizumab, Stewart said. It’s for patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer is a fast-growing type of lung cancer that spreads much more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer.

Bevacizumab was approved as part of lung-cancer treatment during the past three years, Stewart said, after having been tested in earlier clinical trials.

The experimental drug in LRCC’s still-enrolling clinical trial is targeted therapy, which increasingly is being used in additional to standard chemotherapy.

“Targeted therapy is the wave of the future,” Schreiber said. “We have several (cancer trials) going on involving targeted therapy.”

Targeted drugs are designed to go straight to receptor sites on cancer cells, as opposed to traditional chemotherapy that destroys all rapidly dividing cells, Stewart said.

Eclipse, one of two lung-cancer trials enrolling new patients at the Center for Cancer Care and Research, uses targeted therapy. It’s for some squamous non-small-cell lung cancer patients who are at stage IV, when the cancer is the most extensive, McGowan said.

While hopeful about targeted therapy, Schreiber said he doesn’t want anyone thinking its development changes the realities of lung cancer.

“Therapies are slowly getting better, but avoiding lung cancer is a smarter policy than thinking you can be (successfully) treated,” he said.

The status of lung-cancer patients sought for Center for Cancer Care and Research trials bears that out. along with the stage IV patients treated in its Eclipse study, there’s another drug combination trial for “poor performance status” patients with advanced non small-cell lung cancer.

A trial that recently closed for enrollment there had sought patients with “extensive stage’ small cell lung cancer.

[Robin Williams Adams can be reached at or 863-802-7558. Read her blog at Follow on Twitter at ledgerROBIN.]

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