Shining a light on lung cancer.
To mark the beginning of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Maimonides Medical Center, 4802 10th Avenue, held a flag-raising ceremony on Fri., Nov. 2.
President and CEO of Maimonides Medical Center Kenneth Gibbs discussed the challenges in the treatment in lung cancer, starting with the allocation of government funding essential to providing quality care.
Citing the “tremendous amount of challenges in health care,” Gibbs said, “We witness it very visibly with our political system that can’t really handle the issue of how to correctly allocate resources for the benefit of our population with regard to healthcare.
“It’s an incredibly serious issue,” he stressed, “and part of that issue is having the resources for wellness and prevention so we aren’t at the back end treating problems when they’re too late. Lung cancer is one of the illnesses that cries out for that.”
According to Gibbs, lung cancer represents about 25 percent of cancer in the United States. The five-year survival rate is about five percent if the cancer is found late, but it approaches 60 percent if it’s found early. Yet, only a little over 15 percent of the population in Brooklyn has been screened.
“Here at Maimonides, in spite of the challenges we face in funding for prevention and wellness and screening, we have a history of great commitment to serving the community and funding the outreach to create awareness,” he said, emphasizing “Maimonides’s commitment that, if you are eligible, we will screen you, no matter your financial circumstance.”
Dr. Jason Shaw, the director of General Thoracic Surgery and Maimonides’s Lung Screening Program, discussed the progress the hospital has made in curing the disease.
“I’m here not just as a chest surgeon but as someone that has had two very good friends whose lives were affected by lung cancer,” he said. “We are very committed to treating those whose lives are affected by lung cancer, not just the patients but the families.” This includes, he said, not only “the best, most innovative ways to detect lung cancer early,” but also treating patients “with some of the new, exciting things that we have going on out there.”
“There’s been a transformation in how we treat lung cancer so that a patient with advanced lung cancer, seeing me and starting treatment today, gets treatments that were not available even two years ago,” added Dr. Kevin Becker, chief of the Division of Hematology & Medical Oncology. “This means the prospects of patients facing this horrible disease are better than they’ve ever been.
“Things are so different now from when I started,” Becker went on, noting that the question posed by those with advanced lung cancer, “How long do I have?” is “a terrible question that I’ve had to answer almost every day I’ve been doing this. Just in the past couple of years, a new question has come up — ‘How long do I have to keep doing this treatment?’”