The first Friday of the month, the Stillwater Medical Center Foundation sponsors a Lunch and Learn event at noon at the Stillwater Public Library. This week's guest is SMC surgeon Dr. Darby Pope, who will be leading a discussion about lung cancer and treatments.
1. Can you give us a little of your background and how you began practicing here?
I had practiced non-cardiac thoracic surgery (surgery in the chest but not routine open heart surgery) for a decade in New Hampshire prior to the opportunity to start a similar thoracic surgery practice here in Stillwater in January of this year. Steadily over the last year, everyone at Stillwater Medical Center and Stillwater Surgical Associates has helped get all of the equipment and procedures in place. We can now offer all of the least invasive diagnostic options for lung and esophageal cancer as well as the range of multidisciplinary treatments possible for those diseases including chemotherapy and radiation through the new Stillwater Cancer Center and minimally invasive surgeries. Of course, we also can now care for any patients with benign chest diseases as well – such as lung nodules and esophageal problems and various lung conditions such as air or fluid or infections in or around the lungs.
2. We know lung cancer is a serious disease, but what kind of progress has there been in survival?
There have been a number of big advancements that have led to a decrease in the morbidity (the bad effects) and mortality (dying) of lung cancer. One huge advancement is routine lung cancer screening with low-dose chest CT scans which has been shown to decrease mortality by 20% because of detection of cancer at an earlier stage. Another development helping lung cancer patients live longer is targeted chemotherapy for the 20-30% of patients with more advanced disease who have specific gene mutations or whose cancers express certain proteins. Additionally, stereotactic radiation (SBRT) for early stage lung cancer in patients who cannot undergo surgery can double their survival time without cancer progression.
3. What kind of things are you going to be discussing at First Friday?
I will be discussing all of the advancements mentioned above (lung cancer screening, targeted chemotherapy, and SBRT) as well as the significant progress in less-invasive surgical techniques to both diagnose and treat lung cancer patients.
4. What is a common misconception people have about lung cancer, or treatment for lung cancer?
Many people who are still smokers when they are found to have lung cancer often argue that there is no reason to stop smoking now – as though the damage is done. Actually, patients with lung and esophageal cancer have better outcomes with any treatment – surgery and chemotherapy and radiation – if they stop smoking!
5. Is there anything else you would like people to know?
If you are 55 years or older and currently or within the last 15 years smoked 30 pack years (equivalent of 1 pack a day x 30 years) or more, talk to your healthcare provider about lung cancer screening. If you currently smoke, contact your healthcare provider about options to help you quit. It is the best thing you can do for your future self. Also, if you are found to have a growth in your lungs, it may be something treatable; come see us and we will help you along the path to diagnosis and treatment.
– Beau Simmons