Innovations at Huntsman Cancer Institute help lung cancer patients survive

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – People may not realize lung cancer is the second most common cancer in people. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined. 

August 1 is World Lung Cancer Day.  The Huntsman Cancer Institute has new innovations to help lung cancer patients survive.

A decade ago, it was difficult to detect lung cancer until patients had symptoms, which would mean the cancer has advanced stages. Now the Huntsman Cancer Institute offers better early detection.

Dr. Thomas Varghese is a lung cancer specialist and head thoracic surgeon at Huntsman Cancer Institute. He says 433 people die each day from lung cancer in the United States. 

“It’s a silent epidemic and most lethal cancer out there. A lot of people who assume it only occurs in people who smoke but the reality is the fastest growing population of lung cancers is in non-smokers we need to be more vigilant in detecting and we need to do more for diagnosing and treating lung cancer,” said Varghese.

At Huntsman, people who are at risk are given a CT scan.
Lung cancer is asymptomatic but when the illness has progressed Dr. Varghese says warning signs include: 

  • A new cough
  • Change in voice
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unintentional weight loss.

The number one risk factor is smoking but other risks include second-hand smoke, air pollution, occupational hazards and a history of head and neck cancer.

HCI is also the only facility in the Intermountain West offering robotic thoracic surgery for lung cancer patients. The less invasive surgery allows fewer pain meds among other positives.

“The biggest benefits are early recovery, shorter hospital stay and getting back to the things you enjoy.”

The American Cancer Society estimates 154,000 people will die from lung cancer this year. Four hundred and seventy of them will be from Utah.

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