EDMORE — The American Cancer Society (ACS) celebrated its 100th year anniversary last month.
Its efforts have helped improve cancer survival rates and reduce cancer deaths by 20 percent in the last two decades. Today, two out of three people diagnosed in early stages survive for at least five years after diagnosis.
Yet, one thing remains unchanged: Cancer is a deadly disease, and lung cancer is the deadliest of all.
According to ACS, an estimated 228,190 new lung cancer cases are expected in 2013, with an estimated 159,480 of these cases resulting in death.
Cancer awareness and more sensitive screening equipment for early detection are helping to improve these statistics.
Awareness: Labels, commercials, education
You’ve probably seen the new anti-smoking television commercials. The sexy Marlboro man and glamorous Virginia Slims of the past have been replaced with disfigured men and women with raspy voices, yellow teeth and ashes and cigarette butts pouring out their mouths. Tobacco and cigarette companies are now required by the Federal Drug Administration to provide warning labels and information about the consequences associated with tobacco use.
Smoking kills. It’s addictive and life-threatening, not sexy or cool. Schools convey this message as part of students’ health curriculum.
According to Montabella High School teacher Julie Willoughby, tobacco education objectives explain why people use tobacco, the effects it causes on health and the potential addiction of smoking and dangers of second-hand smoke and chewing tobacco — a popular trend among teens.
“I highlight past discussions on stress management and quality of life,” she said. “For example, use of portable oxygen, decreased physical strength, aging quicker and potential for cancer and facial disfigurement.”
She also points out the expense factor and what they could have or do instead of buying cigarettes — saving the money to buy a house or a trip to Hawaii, for example.
Smoking cessation: reasons, options
Smoking — the most predominant risk factor for lung cancer — is also the most preventable cause of death. So the answer’s easy: quit smoking. For most, quitting is anything but easy.
Doctors warn about lung cancer risks, urge them to quit to lower risk and offer advice on ways to quit. But sometimes all it really takes is a healthy dose of reality.
This was the case with Dustin Powell, 40, of Six Lakes, who was a two-pack-a-day smoker who quit six years ago after a severe bout with bronchitis.
“It hurt to breathe, let alone smoke,” he said. “I just looked at it as a sneak peek of my future if I continued to smoke. I had to convince myself that all the warnings I ignored for all those years were going to happen to me if I didn’t quit.”
Powell used Trident gum, Dum-Dum suckers, willpower and flat out stubbornness during the quitting process. The hardest times were when he had nothing to do, so he kept busy.
He agrees with Michigan’s Smoke-Free Air Law and thinks less people are smoking now or they’re smoking less. He craved cigarettes around other smokers for a couple years after he quit, but not anymore. He doesn’t dare pick up another cigarette, though.
“I believe, to this day, if I were to smoke one cigarette or cigar, I would be right back to two packs a day,” he said.
Tony and Tracy Stratton of McBride stopped smoking 16 years ago, mainly for health reasons.
“We were not in poor health but we didn’t want to get to that point either,” Tracy said.
Tony used nasal spray for about a week with success. The only side effect he had was a horrible ashtray-like taste in the back of his throat. For Tracy, who quit cold turkey, being around other smokers was difficult.
“I never gave in to the urge but it was a struggle,” she said. “I used to light up when doing crafts or things like that so doing those activities sparked the urge, as well.”
She became pregnant shortly after quitting, so falling off the wagon was never an option, she said.
“I am so glad we quit,” Tracy said. “We didn’t realize how much we stunk — us, our clothes, our cars, our house — it all just plain stunk when we were smoking. As a smoker, you don’t realize you carry that odor until you quit.”
According to Paul Clouse of the Sheridan Community Hospital network, many prescription drugs are available to help stop smoking, such as pills, patches, nasal sprays, lozenges and gums, to name a few. Side effects can occur, but most people have little or no problems.
Rick Warchuck, of Six Lakes, quit smoking three years ago using Chantix after losing two friends to lung cancer within three months of each other.
“The Chantix probably helped, but thinking about losing my friends was my driving force,” he said.
Hypnosis offers people a drug-free option. Bob Huttinga, a certified physician assistant and hypnotherapist at The Healing Center in Lakeview, has a 75 percent success rate using hypnosis for smoking cessation.
“Anybody can be hypnotized,” he said. “Successful outcome of hypnotherapy is determined by the experience of the therapist and the receptivity of the person.”
For hypnosis to work, the choice to quit smoking must be made by the patient, not by someone else who wants them to quit. A single visit lasting about an hour is usually enough, he said. But he does offer one free follow-up visit as a refresher.
He is offering a group class through Montcalm Community College this fall in Greenville. Prior to quitting, he recommends taking Homeopathic Caladium for a month and Lobelia afterward to relieve urges. Huttinga provides a complimentary CD to help manage stress.
Early detection: Better screening method
Chest x-rays are no longer an acceptable means for lung cancer screening. According to The American Association for Thoracic Surgery, screening for lung cancer should be initiated for individuals who have smoked for 30 years or have quit but still smoked for 30 years. The screening — a yearly low dose radiation CT sScan of the chest — should begin at age 55 and continue until age 79.
Richard Merrill stopped smoking at age 45 after smoking for 30 years. His strategy was simple — willpower. He developed an ulcer and his doctor told him to stop smoking and drinking coffee. His blood pressure was also elevated from smoking, which may have prevented him from renewing his private pilot’s license. He said he loved to fly.
“After I left the doctor’s office, I smoked a few more cigarettes and then, I thought, ‘I can’t keep smoking if I’m going to quit,’” Merrill remembers. “So I threw the pack of seven cigarettes on the counter and they laid there for months — untouched.”
Almost 40 years later, however, he was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 82. A mass was found on his lung in July and was diagnosed as stage IIIB squamous cell carcinoma in October. He just finished radiation and chemotherapy treatments in February and hopes for the best. He’ll continue with CT scans every three months.
Merrill is glad he quit smoking when he did.
“If I hadn’t, there is a strong chance I would have had to deal with this cancer years ago,” he said. “It bought me some years.”
Losing the battle
People who have lost loved ones to cancer know the pain of watching someone lose the battle. Pam Bogart of Edmore has been a widow for just over a year and the memories of her husband’s final days are still fresh in her mind.
Gordon, better-known as Gordy, quit smoking 15 years before being diagnosed with lung cancer. A building contractor by trade, he was exposed to a lot of airborne pollutants. Although he faithfully went to the doctor for routine checkups, he met the hands of fate in his mid-50s. By the time he was diagnosed, his chance for survival was slim. But he still fought hard.
Radiation and multiple chemotherapy sessions didn’t work. He tried homeopathic cleanses and diets, but the tumors continued to grow. It was an emotional roller coaster. Eventually, the family had to come to terms with Gordy’s untimely death.
If Pam could offer advice to help others in Gordy’s memory, she would first tell them to rely on their faith in Jesus Christ and never give up.
“Surround yourself with positive people,” she said. “Miracles are possible and we never know when the G’reat Physician’ will heal. Unfortunately, cancer takes good people out of this world before their time.”
For more information about cancer prevention and risks, visit the American Cancer Society website at www.cancer.org/fight.