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Doctors using high-profile lung cancer diagnoses, deaths to raise awareness about disease

Posted at 4:13 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 16:58:05-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Former U.S Senator and Republican Presidential Nominee Bob Dole has been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.

RELATED: Bob Dole, former senator and presidential candidate, has stage 4 lung cancer

The 97-year-old made the announcement Thursday, saying he'll start treatment Monday.

The news comes right on the heels radio-show host, Rush Limbaugh, dying from the disease, just a day before.

RELATED: Rush Limbaugh: Conservative radio icon dies at 70

Doctors at Spectrum Health said that diagnoses and deaths among public figures often raises awareness for various diseases, and this is one of those times.

According to Dr. Glenn VanOtteren, MD the Division Chief of Pulmonary Critical Care at Spectrum Health, lung cancer is leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. The disease also kills more people than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.

While the majority of cases are connected to tobacco use, lung cancers can also form from environmental factors or family history. However Dr. VanOtteren said quitting smoking is the biggest and most important step in reducing your risk.

He said, “We would be remiss if we didn’t say what should be obvious to everyone at this point is, you shouldn’t smoke.”

Dr. VanOtteren went on to say, “Smoking leads to the most significant preventable cause of illness in the nation, so it’s a super-wicked habit, highly addictive, very difficult to quit for anybody. It’s just so imperative that people don’t smoke, because it puts them at risk not just for lung cancer, but dozens of other cancers, heart disease, vascular disease, and strokes.”

Whether you’ve smoked for years or not a day in your life, Dr. VanOtteren reminds people to take stock of their health and not brush any symptoms under the rug. He said by talking to your doctors, cancers can be caught early and increase the chance of survival.

“If we catch a one stage lung cancer, say you were a smoker, we screened you, we found a spot and proved that it was lung cancer, and it’s less than an inch in size, and we take you to surgery; about 85% of those patients are going to be cancer free at five years,” he explained.

That number drops significantly as time goes on to about 4-5% when lung cancer is found at Stage 4.

Dr. VanOtteren said that Spectrum Health has a comprehensive and successful lung cancer screening program that’s free and painless for those who meet the criteria.

He said, “If you’re older than 55 and have smoked for 30 pack-years and have smoked within the last 15 years, those three criteria, then we know the benefits of screening far outweigh any potentially harms from screening.”

To learn if you meet the lung cancer screening criteria at Spectrum Health click here or call (616) 486-5864.