NewsAnnouncements : Murtha Cancer Center Hosts Annual Lung Cancer Summit/Awareness Day

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Murtha Cancer Center Hosts Annual Lung Cancer Summit/Awareness Day


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communications

The battle against lung cancer requires a multi-faceted approach encompassing prevention, early detection, treatment, research and survivorship stressed speakers during the 5th annual lung cancer summit/lung cancer patient awareness day at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Nov. 3.
The John P. Murtha Cancer Center (MCC) at WRNMMC hosted the event.
Guest speaker at the summit, retired Navy Capt. (Dr.) Martin J. Edelman, explained that like the MCC, the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he serves as the professor of medicine, is focused on the science, clinical, prevention and epidemiology of cancers.
While discussing the management of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which accounts for about 85 percent of all lung cancers, Edelman explained that lung cancer is “overwhelmingly the most common cause of cancer-related deaths” accounting for 28 percent of cancer-related deaths in U.S men and 26 percent in U.S. women. Annually in the United States, there are approximately 223,000 new case of lung cancer (116,990 in men and 105,510 in women), which results in about 155,870 deaths (84,590 in men and 71,280 in women). About one out of four cancer deaths are from lung cancer.
Edelman added risk factors for lung cancer include smoking, environmental issues (second-hand smoke, radon, industrial pollution) and radiation exposure. The most common symptoms include coughing (including coughing up blood) weight loss, shortness of breath and chest pains, he continued.
While smile-cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for about 15 percent of lung cancers, it is also the most aggressive.
"There is no good lung cancer,” Edelman stressed, describing staging as an important determinant and prognosis for such a “toxic” disease.
Lung cancer care can include more than one kind of treatment depending on the stage, patient’s age, health, response to chemotherapy, possible side effects to care and other determinants, Edelman explained. NSCLC is comparatively less sensitive to chemotherapy and/or radiation, so surgery, radio frequency ablation, targeted therapies and immunotherapy are often the treatments in these tumors. Usually SCLC initially responds well to chemotherapy and/or radiation, but this cancer has typically metastasized by the time it is discovered, making surgery less ineffective and a choice of treatment.
Chris Draft, a special guest speaker at the summit, agreed that the battle against lung cancer demands a multi-faceted approach. Exactly one month after getting married on Nov. 27, 2011, Draft, a former NFL linebacker, lost his new bride Keasha, 38, to lung cancer on Dec. 27, 2011. They met in 2006 while he was a player with the NFL's Carolina Panthers and she was a dancer with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets basketball team's dance squad, the Honey Bees. 
Draft, now an advocate for lung cancer awareness, explained how his wife was the picture of health before her illness. She was a non-smoker, worked out and ran regularly. "She was in amazing shape, but we found out that the most important thing about lung cancer is that anyone can get it. Nobody is immune to it," he said, adding too often (approximately 80 percent of the time) lung cancer is diagnosed in its late stages. Such was the case with Keasha, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in 2010. She used a wheelchair to get down the aisle at their wedding, and managed to take the last few steps to the altar to take their vows. Rather than gifts for their wedding, the Draft's asked people to support efforts towards lung cancer awareness.
While there is a lot of information about lung cancer prevention, which is good, more attention needs to be given to lung cancer early detection, treatment, research and survivorship, Draft emphasized. "We have to commit to it," he said.
Army Col. (Dr.) Craig D. Shriver, director of the John P. Murtha Cancer, said approximately 1,000 U.S. service members are diagnosed with some type of cancer annually. "These are young, active duty service members."
Because of these numbers, Shriver said the Department of Defense has recognized cancer's impact on readiness, explaining a diagnosis can take the service member "out of the fight"  for months if not a year or more for treatment and rehabilitation.
Shriver, along with other DoD leaders in cancer care, worked for two years to draft the Initial Capabilities Document for Cancer Care in order for the Pentagon handle cancer as a readiness issue. Part of the document states: "Following the Quadruple aim of the [Military Health System] to achieve a high level of readiness, improved population health, high experience of care, and lower per capita costs, the John P. Murtha Cancer Center of Excellence was founded to manage all cancer care for the DoD."
The service member is at the center of DoD cancer care operational view Shriver furthered. He explained that the desired ends are that cancer care treats and supports service members suffering from cancer so they return to duty or reintegrate to civilian life with optimal clinical outcomes and the highest possible quality of life. Ways of achieving these ends are through prevention, screening and detection, treatments (with minimal side effects) and rehabilitation with medical personnel MHS-wide who provide clinical and rehabilitative cancer care.
To enhance DoD cancer care and expand its area of expertise, the Murtha Cancer Center is partnering with military treatment facilities Naval Medical Center at Portsmouth, Virginia; Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Keesler Air Force Medical Center at Biloxi, Mississippi; Naval Medical Center at San Diego California; San Antonio Military Medical Center at San Antonio, Texas; Madigan Army Medical Center at Tacoma, Washington and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital at Fort Belvior, Virginia.
The Murtha Cancer Center also allies with a number of other cancer institutes and centers throughout the nation as part of the ORIEN (Oncology Research Information Exchange Network) Alliance, which is dedicated to collaborating and sharing data, tissue samples, novel treatments, clinical trials and other information to advance cancer research and care, Shriver explained.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Karen Zeman, a WRNMMC hematology oncologist, and Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Joseph Zeman, a pulmonologist, led the afternoon discussion with patients concerning screening, treatment and survivorship.
“Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health,” said the pulmonologist, informing beneficiaries that WRNMMC has an Integrated Health Clinic for nodules tracking, screening and tobacco cessation therapy. “It’s never too late to stop smoking,” he added, explaining once a person stops smoking their risk for developing lung cancer frequently declines. He added use of hookahs, cigars and vaping are not good alternatives for quitting smoking altogether.
Beneficiaries interested in quitting tobacco can contact the WRNMMC Integrative Health and Wellness Services staff to make an appointment at 301-295-0105.
The oncologist added that while lung cancer is the No. 1 killer of cancers, there’s hope. She explained there are advancements in research and treatments, particularly when there’s a very low stage tumor [and possibly curable]. “When (the cancer) metastatic, we discuss palliative care [specialized treatment to provide relief and improve the quality of life].”
For more information about the Murtha Cancer Center, visit www.wrnmmc.capmed.mil.