Archive for ‘Cancer’

February 18, 2014

Smoking kills – Seriously, In More Ways Than One!

Smoking Kills by Vanderloot ∴ via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Smoking Kills by Vanderloot ∴ via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We typically don’t go for sensationalized article titles (there’s plenty of that out there without having to drum up extra) but the recent word from the Surgeon General’s office is serious.

USA Today quoted Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC as saying, “Amazingly, smoking is even worse than we knew – even after 50 years we’re still finding new ways that smoking maims and kills people.”

In this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the Surgeon General’s office calling tobacco what it is – a killer, the report (which can be found here) enumerates the sins of the smoke. Most people know that tobacco contains known carcinogens, and is related to lung and other head and neck cancers. The damage of smoking to the lungs is widely known and acknowledged. The acceleration of vascular disease and the association between smoking and cardiovascular disease is well-studied and widely known.

The more widespread effects of tobacco are less well known, and new associations are increasingly being recognized. The surgeon general in this report concluded that smoking is causally-linked – many smoking can directly cause -diabetes, liver and colorectal cancers. These are fairly recent additions to the list of diseases and damage from smoking.

The body – from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes and all parts between – is harmed by tobacco and smoking. Did you know smoking is related to macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness), erectile dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis, growth problems in fetuses whose mothers smoke as well as cleft lips and palates? Amazing that after 50 years scientists are still uncovering more ways tobacco damages the body.

This is not intended as a public shaming campaign for smokers, but a call to health for all. We need to work together to educate and keep others from starting on the path to addiction and help those who are addicted. We know it’s not easy. Some resources for quitting can be found here.

January 9, 2014

Smokers and CT Screenings

Smoking woman Kelsey by Kelsey via Wikimedia Commons Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Smoking woman Kelsey by Kelsey via Wikimedia Commons Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

As a follow up to our post in July of this year on the United States Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF or task force for shorter!) draft recommendation with regards to lung cancer and CT screening, the final report has been recently published with full recommendations just in time to start the new year.

While the recommendations for who should undergo what type of screening have not changed since the initially-released draft, putting the full voice of the USPSTF behind it does have an effect. Under new healthcare legislation, Task Force-backed cancer screenings will be covered without co-pays in the relatively near future. This means that those who need screening tests will have greater access to them.

So, who needs to be screened for lung cancer? The task force has specified who fits in the high-risk category for lung cancer.

  • Those who smoke at least a pack a day for 30 years (or its equivalent, such as 2 packs a day for 15 years), are between the ages of 55-80 or have stopped smoking less than 15 years ago fall into the high-risk, should be screened category.

  • Exemptions are made for those who have been smoke-free for 15 years or more or those who aren’t currently well enough to go through cancer treatment.

If you fall in a high-risk category, screening for lung cancer with low-dose CT can save lives by finding lung cancer when it is smaller and more treatable, offering hope for a disease which until now had a pretty dismal outlook. The CT scan is done in a matter of a few minutes, and differs from a routine CT in that lower than usual dose is used so that the study can be repeated annually as needed.

And because early detection saves lives, this new CT screening test holds the possibility of moving the approximately 10 million high risk individuals* on their way to better health.

 

*Yes there are that many who fall into the “high risk” category. Please give up the habit!