Baptist Director of Thoracic Oncology Research Answers Your Lung Cancer Questions

Dec 15 • 2017

On November 27, Baptist hosted a Facebook Live about lung cancer and the importance of early detection. Dr. Raymond Osarogiagbon, oncologist/hematologist and director of Thoracic Oncology Research at Baptist Cancer Center, participated in the discussion. We sat down with him after the Facebook Live to get answers to some of your follow-up questions about this disease.

Q. Can you explain how the Baptist Cancer Center is changing the way doctors diagnose lung cancer?

A. Because most patients who have lung cancer show up when the cancer is too advanced to cure, we are working to find ways to catch lung cancer early—before it has spread. One way to achieve this is to track patients who have hints of early lung cancer on X-rays taken for other reasons.

For example, the X-rays or scans for issues like heart attack, heart failure, abdominal pain or trauma can also reveal a spot or indication of early lung cancer. Because we are distracted by the need to deal with the problem that led to the X-ray, patients and their caregivers often forget to follow up on the spot in the lung.

The Incidental Pulmonary Nodule Program allows us to track such patients with their permission and that of their doctors. This tracking system helps reduce the risk that patients’ cancer will not be treated until it is widespread and too late for a cure.

Since 2016, we have found hundreds of cases of patients with lung cancer through this program. Four out of five of these patients were in stage 1 — when the cancer can most likely be cured.

Q. How does the multidisciplinary thoracic oncology program treat patients differently from other programs in the Mid-South?

A. Lung cancer is a very complex disease. Correct treatment is hard to figure out because of the wide range of options for diagnosis, staging and treatment. These often include a variety of tests and different experts.

Unfortunately, this complexity makes it difficult to get the right treatment to the right patient at the right time, which often leads to needless suffering and loss of life. At Baptist, we have set up a system where all of our lung cancer experts from different specialties come together early to examine every potential lung cancer patient’s case. All these experts then agree on the quickest, safest, most effective and least costly type of care for each patient.

We recognize the complexity of lung cancer care and how frightening a diagnosis can be. So we’ve come together as a team to improve the quality of care. Now, more patients can survive lung cancer because more of them get the exact care they need—no more and no less.

Q. What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have when it comes to lung cancer?

A. There are many, and they include the following:

  1. Exposing the cancer to air makes it spread.
  2. Lung cancer cannot be cured.
  3. All doctors know how to provide good care for lung cancer.
  4. Once lung cancer is diagnosed, it is too late to quit smoking.
  5. If you don’t have symptoms, such as pain, cough or shortness of breath, you can’t have lung cancer.

Q. How can people be more proactive when it comes to diagnosing lung cancer early? What steps can they take to prevent it?

A. To prevent it, don’t smoke. If you do, quit. Friends and family shouldn’t let friends and family smoke. Don’t let people smoke around you. People who smoke and those who have quit smoking should ask their doctor if they qualify for a lung cancer screening.

Find out more about Baptist Cancer Center’s lung cancer services and how to find a cancer specialist.