Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Triumph navigators do their part to support oncology care team
Breast cancer gets more attention than lung cancer and has more festive, popular events to support it – like pink ribbon runs and fundraiser teams with catchy names. That has made a major impact because, through tremendous research, the treatments for breast cancer have become more and more successful.
But lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second-most common cancer among both men and women in the United States. Each year, about 200,000 people in the United States are told they have lung cancer and more than 150,000 people die from this disease.
LUNG CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
That’s why November is designated Lung Cancer Awareness Month. People need to know about this disease, including how to avoid, detect and treat it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80 to 90 percent of lung cancers are linked with cigarette smoking – either directly or by breathing secondhand smoke.
“The best way to avoid lung cancer is by not smoking,” said Tammie McGlothlin, a Triumph nurse navigator who serves the oncology teams for our Northeast market of Johnston Memorial Hospital, Russell County Medical Center and Smyth County Community Hospital. “People should get regular checkups and if there are risk factors then have regular screenings. The earlier we catch lung cancer, the more we can do with it, but it doesn’t usually show symptoms until the later stages.”
The CMS guidelines for beneficiary eligibility criteria for lung cancer screenings with a low-dose CT scan are:
- Have a history of heavy smoking, and
- Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and
- Are between 55 and 77 years old, and
- Asymptomatic (no signs or symptoms of lung cancer), and
- Receive a written physician order for the screening.
Talk to your physician about whether you should have a low-dose CT lung screening, which is offered at several Mountain States facilities.
STIGMA ABOUT SMOKING
McGlothlin said there is a stigma attached to lung cancer that the disease is only caused by smoking.
“Smoking is the big factor, but there are a lot of other things that put people at risk,” she said. “It can be genetic and there are lots of environmental exposures. It’s important to talk to your doctor about all the risk factors.”
The Triumph navigators are part of a team effort when treating lung cancer patients, working to support the nurses, surgeons, radiologists, pulmonologists, radiation and medical oncologists and many others. The navigators help cancer patients from the initial diagnosis through doctor visits, surgery and other treatments. They can assist with all aspects of care, whether someone needs help making an informed decision, communicating with a doctor, or just needs a shoulder to lean on.
“We want to be there for the patient as they go through the whole journey,” McGlothlin said. “As navigators, we’re one part of the treatment team, helping coordinate everything for the patient, but it definitely takes a team approach to get the best outcome.”
McGlothlin, RN, earned her nursing degree from Southwest Virginia Community College and is pursuing a BSN at Bluefield College. She has a background in home health, palliative and hospice care, and chemotherapy, and has served as an infusion nurse at the Regional Cancer Center since 2012.
Triumph also has navigators at Johnson City Medical Center, Indian Path Medical Center and Norton Community Hospital who assist lung cancer patients.
“For cancer patients, there’s just so much involved,” McGlothlin said. “They’re stressed out anyway by their diagnosis, so they don’t want to worry about things like how am I going to pay for this, how do I get my prescription filled, when is my next appointment, or have I had all the necessary tests. So we try to coordinate all that so their focus can be on getting better.”
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT LUNG CANCER
The navigators are eager to spread awareness of lung cancer. Some pertinent facts from the CDC: After increasing for decades, lung cancer rates are decreasing nationally, as fewer people smoke cigarettes. But when a person breathes in secondhand smoke, it is like he or she is smoking. In the United States, about 7,300 people who never smoked die from lung cancer due to secondhand smoke every year.
Ways to lower risk:
- Don’t smoke. The most important thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is to not start smoking, or to quit if you smoke.
- Avoid secondhand smoke. Smoke from other people’s cigarettes, pipes or cigars is called secondhand smoke. Make your home and car smoke-free.
- Get your home tested for radon. The second-leading cause of lung cancer is radon, a naturally occurring gas that comes from rocks and dirt and can get trapped in houses and buildings.
For more information on the Triumph navigator program, visit www.my-triumph.org. For more about lung cancer and low-dose CT screenings, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/index.htm.