Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: The Importance of Early Detection of Lung Cancer

November is lung cancer awareness month. With that, doctors say it’s important to understand why early detection is key.

“Lung cancer is the leading cause of death related to cancer in men and women,” noted Dr. Kevin Fussell, a pulmonologist at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. “If you take cancer deaths from colon, breast and prostate and add them all together, it still doesn’t touch lung cancer deaths.”

Dr. Fussell says lung cancer detection should be taken seriously. The earlier it can be found, the better the outcome.

“We know that patients with stage 1a lung cancer have a 90% five-year survival. Patients with stage 4b have a 0% five-year survival rate,” noted Dr. Fussell.

Screening are what doctors recommend as the best course of action. Anyone between the ages of 50 and 75, who are heavy smokers, or who have quit in the past 15 years should be screened.

“Lung cancer screening has been shown to be effective because you have a disease that is pretty prevalent. You have a disease that is pretty severe, and a disease that if detected early you can have an impact on,” said Dr. Fussell.

And, since symptoms aren’t experience until late in the disease, it’s one more reason to pay attention early and get checked.

“Usually, patients don’t end up having symptoms until their disease is quite advanced. When you do develop symptoms, it’s frequently something like cough, or coughing up blood, maybe shortness of breath because of fluid collection, weight loss can be a symptom,” said Dr. Fussell.

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA.

If you have a question about your health you’d like answered, email