Love Rush Limbaugh, OR NOT, facing a lung cancer diagnosis isn’t easy!! Here are a few things Rush and his family might be facing right now ~ and it is my hope that this information might help someone YOU love down the road, too! “Rush Limbaugh Lung Cancer Facts”
I learned a thing or two about Lung Cancer as my daughter was diagnosed with (and died from) Small Cell Lung Cancer at age 25. “Lung cancer.” Two little words that still leave me breathless.
Nope, you don’t have to have smoked 3 packs a day for 60 years to get it, so let’s just set aside that myth (out of the many), and focus on what Rush and his family might be going through. It is possible that this information will help you to help someone you love someday, too.
Lung cancer is a beast. It kills more people every year than breast, colorectal and prostate cancers combined. Treatment options and survival rates vary tremendously based on the TYPE and STAGE of lung cancer the person has – and cannot be determined until known. This sequence I encourage patients to follow?
- Identify and understand the type of lung cancer that you have
- Learn how this affects your prognosis and treatment options
- Understand emerging and alternative therapies, as well as the option to not treat your cancer
- Master the questions to ask you care team so they care for you per your wishes
- Decide how you will LIVE with lung cancer…
The following are excerpts from my book “LUNG CANCER 101, by Lynn Sherwood with Jason Cohen.” It is FREE on my website, LynnSherwood.com as a PDF or e-reader, and I invite you to learn more!!
THERE ARE 2 PRIMARY TYPES OF LUNG CANCER
Different types of lung cancer are described by the types of cells a pathologist sees under the microscope, per LUNGevity.org’s “Types of Lung Cancers” page:
- About 15% of lung cancers are Small Cell Lung Carcinoma (SCLC).
- About 85% of lung cancers are NON-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma (NSCLC). Per the American Cancer Society, there are three major types of NON-Small Cell Lung Cancer:
- Squamous cell lung cancer (also called epidermoid carcinoma)
- Large cell lung cancer
- (Plus “Other”)
- Small Cell Lung Cancer is also referred to as “Oat Cell” Cancer. Shall we perhaps visualize a bowl of oatmeal in front of you on the counter? How many small, unique oats can you count? A Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer tumor typically looks more like a single raisin, peanut, or maybe a grape. To remove a single grape-sized object in its entirety is more likely possible than being able to scrape out each and every oat from a bowl full.
- IF YOU HAVE LUNGS, YOU CAN GET LUNG CANCER. It is imperative that you understand YOUR specific type of lung cancer; treatment options vary dramatically depending on the type of lung cancer diagnosed!
- In the following pages, we’ll look at your current treatment options as well as emerging therapies and mindset strategies so you can begin to determine how you will LIVE with lung cancer.
- Join us at OddlyGrateful.com for support and even more information!
RESOURCES: The LUNGevity Foundation, who referenced the following: 1) Noone AM, Howlader N, Krapcho M, Miller D, Bresi A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2015, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2015, based on November 2017 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER website, April 2018; and 2) What is Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer? American Cancer Society website. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-small-cell-lung-cancer/about/what-is-non-small-cell-lung-cancer.html. Revised May 16, 2016. Accessed December 12, 2017. https://lungevity.org/for-patients-caregivers/lung-cancer-101/types-of-lung-cancer
“STAGING” of LUNG CANCER
Staging is a way to describe where cancer is located and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
Per the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, SMALL Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) is typically staged as either “Limited” or “Extensive”:
- “Limited Stage” means that the primary, or original, cancer resides in one lung or in the nearby tissue. It may have spread to nearby lymph nodes or into the tissues between the lungs. It has NOT metastasized to the patient’s other organs.
- “Extensive Stage” means that the cancer has spread (metastasized) outside of the original location of the primary lesion and to other organs and parts of the body, most commonly the brain, liver, and/or bones.
NON-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) staging is typically identified using the TNM system:
Tumor (T) describes the size of the original tumor. Lymph node (N) indicates whether the cancer is present in the lymph nodes. Metastasis (M) refers to whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, usually the liver, bones or brain.
A number (0-4) is assigned to each T, N, and M factor. A higher number indicates increasing severity. Once the T, N and M scores have been assigned, an overall stage is assigned.
Stages of NON-Small Cell Lung Cancer:
- Occult stage non-small cell lung cancer: Cancer cells are found in sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract); no tumor is found in the lung by imaging tests or bronchoscopy.
- Stage 0 non-small cell lung cancer: The cancer is very small in size and has not spread into deeper lung tissues nor outside the lung.
- Stage I non-small cell lung cancer: Cancer may be present in the underlying lung tissues; lymph nodes remain unaffected.
- Stage II non-small cell lung cancer: The cancer may have spread to lymph nodes nearby or into the chest wall.
- Stage III non-small cell lung cancer:The cancer has spread from the lung/s to the lymph nodes or to nearby structures and organs, such as the heart, trachea and esophagus.
- Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer: The cancer has spread (metastasized) throughout the body and may now affect organs, bones, and soft tissues.
RESOURCES: https://www.cancercenter.com/lung-cancer/stages/tab/small-cell-lung-cancer-limited-stage/, https://www.cancercenter.com/lung-cancer/stages/tab/small-cell-lung-cancer-extensive-stage/, https://www.cancercenter.com/lung-cancer/stages/tab/overview/
As I stated above, knowing the type and stage of lung cancer is imperative before one even starts to think about treatments options and survival statistics. Surgery may or may not be practical, the type of radiation will vary, chemotherapy medications differ by type and extent, and emerging therapies have literally changed the trajectory of survival rates since approximately 2014 (for the first time in decades!), particularly effective with NON- Small Cell Lung Cancer type.
(Learn more about immunotherapies, types of chemo and radiation, ‘alternative’ therapies, etc by reading “LUNG CANCER 101, by Lynn Sherwood with Jason Cohen.” It is FREE on my website, LynnSherwood.com as a PDF or e-reader, and I invite you to learn more!!)
“TRADITIONAL & WESTERN” THERAPIES
To Treat or Not to Treat? There are a host of possible “Western,” “Eastern,” and “Non-Traditional” treatments you might choose, in addition to the option of not ‘treating’ at all. An intensely personal decision, the following are just a few options for treating your Lung Cancer, or not…. Please speak with your family, trusted advisors, and health care providers.
Surgery: Localized Non-Small Cell Cancer (NSCLC) lesions may be able to be excised (removed) with surgery such as a Resection (removal of a small part of the lung where the tumor is located), Lobectomy (removal of an entire lobe of the affected lung), or Pneumonectomy (removal of the entire lung). Small Cell Lung Carcinoma (SCLC) is rarely considered operable unless found incidentally in a very early “limited” stage.
Chemotherapy: The most commonly used chemotherapy options (treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing), for both NSCLC and SCLC, currently include a Platinum-based drug with the addition of an adjunct drug, the decision for which is based on the particular molecular biology of your cancer. (We will be addressing types of chemotherapy in Chapter #7.)
Radiation Therapy: The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
Prophylactic Cranial Irradiation (PCI): Preventative radiation therapy to the brain, if the patient exhibits good response to other therapies. PCI is frequently recommended in order to lower the risk of brain metastasis, a very common site of SCLC recurrence, in particular.
Clinical Trials: New drugs go through a series of tests with significant and standard monitoring before being granted widespread government approval. Being part of a clinical trial can have significant benefits (if it’s working for YOU), or risks and challenges (if it’s not working for you and/or for others). We will speak more about Trials in Topic #9.
Palliative Therapy: “Palliative Care” is treatment aimed at helping someone be comfortable, not to cure. Radiation, pain management, emotional support, planning and holistic care are areas of focus for ‘palliative care’. They are often used to help control the symptoms of cancer. For example, in addition to working to shrink or eliminate the actual cancer, radiation may be used in managing symptoms such as bone pain due to bone metastases, headaches and weakness caused by brain metastases, bleeding from the lungs, and bowel or bladder symptoms caused by obstruction of the spinal cord. It is not curative; it may help to reduce the cancer symptoms you may experience. You may also get help finding ways to manage stress, fear, and planning for your health care future and the well-being of your family. A good palliative care provider may help your spiritual, emotional, and physical journey while navigating lung cancer. Lung.org has a great resource to learn more about palliative care: (https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/patients/treatment/types-of-treatment/supportive-palliative-care.html).
RESOURCES: https://www.verywellhealth.com/small-cell-lung-cancer-2249366, https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/patients/treatment/types-of-treatment/supportive-palliative-care.html
Regardless of your political views for Rush Limbaugh, it is my hope that you have learned something today and can encourage and educate another human in your life. This is my purpose, my labor of love – to help others learn about Lung Cancer because of what we learned in my daughter’s journey.
Download the entire book FOR FREE: “LUNG CANCER 101, by Lynn Sherwood with Jason Cohen” at LynnSherwood.com as a PDF or e-reader. I invite you to learn more!!
Lynn Sherwood-Humphries is an author, TEDx Dupree Park 2020 speaker, and advocate for end-of-life care communication. She lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with her husband, Shepard Humphries, and her puppy, Remington. She began researching lung cancer extensively in order to make the best care decisions possible with her daughter, who was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer at age 25. “This is the one-stop resource that I needed as we began our journey,” she says. With a background in nursing and end-of-life caregiving, and her now intimate knowledge about lung cancer, she is passionate about helping you navigate your lung cancer journey ~ and she’ll sprinkle in more than a bit of care and compassion along the way!