WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U-S, according to the American Lung Association. Often, people with lung cancer don’t know they have the disease because symptoms don’t appear until advanced stages. 

Dr. Kellen Mulhern, a pulmonologist at Frederick Health in Frederick, Md., said lung cancer is hard to treat for multiple reasons.

“First off, there are different types of lung cancers. Some of them we have really good treatments for. I would say probably the trickiest part of treating lung cancer is the fact that usually if it’s in the early stage, where it’s the most curable, patients don’t necessarily have symptoms of the lung cancer at that time. Once the symptoms start, that can sometimes be a sign that the lung cancer is either starting to grow or even start to spread into other parts of the body,” he said.

Dr. Mulher also said symptoms of lung cancer include a cough that doesn’t necessarily seem to go away.

“Sometimes the cough, despite other treatments for the cough, tends to worsen and worsen over time. Sometimes there’s blood inside of the sputum of the cough. Those are all great reasons to see a doctor or a pulmonologist. Sometimes the symptoms can be vague. Maybe you completely lose your appetite. Maybe you start to lose weight and you can’t really explain why you’re losing that weight. So those are probably the most common ones that I see,” he said.

As of 2021, the United States Preventative Service Task Force, which is a body of physicians that looks at data, put out new guidelines to try to catch more people in the earlier stages of lung cancer.

“In the past, the recommendations were to start screening people at 55. We’ve since lowered that down to the age of 50. Another thing that we decided to do was change how many people we should consider for screening based off of how much they smoke. So in the past, we did a 30-pack year history that’s now down to a 20-pack year history. And package history is actually very easy to figure out. All you have to do is take the number of packs that you smoke in a day and multiply that by the amount of years that you smoke. So if you’re smoking two packs a day for ten years, that would equal a 20-year history,” Dr. Mulher said.

The George Washington University Hospital is hosting a Lung Cancer Screening Day on Saturday, November 11th, 2023, from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., at GW Hospital (900 23rd St. NW) in the Radiology Department on the first floor. The event increases the accessibility of lung cancer screening to those who are unable to get screened on weekdays due to their busy schedules. The goal of these screenings is to detect lung cancer as early as possible in order to increase the number of survivors. If eligible, individuals can access these screenings at the George Washington Hospital on November 11th.

If you have a smoking history, talk to your healthcare provider to see if you are eligible for lung cancer screening. If you qualify, the screening will be covered. For more information, call 1-855-GWLUNGWS.