Lung Cancer Awareness: High rates among women and in ENC

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) - Lung cancer rates are on the rise among women and here in Eastern Carolina, many counties have rates higher than the state average for lung cancer in general.

November is lung cancer awareness month and for those reasons, Vidant Medical Center and ECU are working to raise awareness for lung cancer screenings and other resources that are available locally.

Dr. Mark Bowling says lung cancer kills more people than many other kinds of cancer combined, including: breast, colon, prostate, kidney and melanoma.

"It's clearly linked to smoking...there's no doubt about it, but only 60% so you know, a little less than a third of people who have lung cancer are non-smokers," Bowling said. "...The alarming rate is the amount of women that [are] getting cancer, so if you look from 1939 to now, lung cancer deaths in men have decreased by 41% [but] they've increased 102% in women."

ECU and Vidant Medical Center serve 29 Eastern Carolina counties and of those 29, about half have above average rates. The average for our state is 74 out of 100,000 and that equates to about 6,000 people dying of lung cancer in North Carolina each year, according to Dr. Bowling.

Just last year, 400 new cases were diagnosed at Vidant Medical Center.

While those numbers may be scary, Bowling says there is some good news in all of this.

Early detection is key, and Bowling says that Vidant Medical Center has an above-average rate for treating patients in a timely manner. He says their data shows that on average, new lung cancer patients begin treatment within two weeks of calling the department for an appointment, which is much higher than the average wait time of about 120 days.

Bowling says, "I think the most important thing is to realize that if you have lungs you can get lung cancer whether you smoke or not... number two, get screened. Who can be screened? Go to your doctor, particularly if you are a smoker, you have to have smoked in the past or be smoking now and say 'do I fit the criteria for lung cancer screening?"

Lung cancer screenings are offered at many doctor's offices and medical facilities across the east -- you do NOT have to go to the hospital for it.