Vidant doctor talks Kathy Griffin lung cancer diagnosis, what to look out for

Smoking and family history are two of the biggest indicators of the disease.
Smoking and family history are two of the biggest indicators of the disease.
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 7:25 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Kathy Griffin took to Twitter Monday to tell the world she is having surgery for lung cancer.

Dr. Mark Bowling, the Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care at Vidant Medical Center and ECU, works regularly with lung cancer patients and said it can often be hard to spot.

That’s why it’s important to know the biggest indicators of the disease: smoking and family history.

Dr. Bowling said symptoms like a weird cough can also tell you something is wrong, but by that time, it may be too late.

Griffin said she had never smoked before, and Dr. Bowling said her diagnosis is still not out of the ordinary. He reported 20% of people who get diagnosed with lung cancer do not smoke.

“It’s really common in women, younger women who are non-smokers,” said Dr. Bowling.

Though he is not sure it’s happening at other institutions, Dr. Bowling has noticed that fewer and fewer people are coming in for a screening, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He still suggests talking to your doctor to know if you should get screened or not.

“I beg people to please keep up with your health care maintenance. Not just lung cancer screening, but going to the doctor, check your cholesterol, your heart, your colon screening, your breast screening, all of that is important,” he said.

He warns that screenings can be costly if you do not qualify for insurance-covered screenings. Often times it is only heavy smokers who qualify for a yearly lung cancer screening.

Though lung cancer is the most common cancer to end in death, Dr. Bowling said he is confident in current research and said it could be more treatable in the future.

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