PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Every two minutes someone is diagnosed with lung cancer, which is currently the leading cause of cancer-related death for both men and women.
Fortunately, advancements in treatment and diagnostics are helping patients like 41-year-old Maria Brito live longer lives, even with advanced-stage disease.
“I went to my primary doctor and in the beginning, he thought I had asthma so he started giving me medication. It didn’t work and it was getting worse and worse so we did an X-ray and that’s how everything started,” Brito said.
She was stunned when the results came back positive for lung cancer.
“I never would have thought I would get lung cancer. I’m not a smoker, I’m super young, I’ve had a healthy life and thought ‘why me’ but it happens as long as you have lungs you can get lung cancer,” she said.
While there are no warning signs for lung cancer, experts say that 70 percent of cases are usually curable thanks to advancements in diagnosis and treatment, which now includes a recently approved blood test, instead of an invasive biopsy, to determine the DNA of the tumor.
“Lung cancers are like a balloon so there’s always a risk when you put in the needle you can blow out the lung and cause a pneumothorax,” said Dr. Luis Raez with the Memorial Cancer Institute.
Raez said the results of the DNA blood test also come back faster than traditional tissue biopsy, speeding up the treatment process.
“We now have nine genetic alterations that we have discovered in lung cancer patients and for each of these genetic alterations, there is one, two or three oral agents from multiple industry partners that we can use,” Raez said.
And that gives hope to patients like Brito.
“It’s a game-changer and that was great to me,” she said.
While the cure rates for lung cancer are increasing so are the number of cases of the disease as the population grows.