10/08/17 — Cancer edition 2017: Tobacco and cancer

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Cancer edition 2017: Tobacco and cancer

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on October 8, 2017 4:03 PM

Tobacco-related cancers remain a problem as tobacco consumption holds its grip on about 20 to 30 percent of the population.

Dr. Jim Atkins at the Southeastern Medical Oncology Center said the center sees about 70 to 80 new lung cancer patients per year.

This equates to a range of 1 to 1.5 new patients at the facility per week each year.

"We tend to see more lung cancers in the Spring," Atkins said. "That's because people have their winter colds that don't get better, and finally in Spring time they decide they'll check up on their winter cold and lo and behold, it's not a cold after all, it's lung cancer."

The key to catching lung cancer early is regular screenings, Atkins said, the techniques for which have become more advanced in recent years.

Yet about 80 percent of lung cancer, which is one of the most common cancers caused by smoking, is only caught by the time it is stage three or stage four. At stage four, there is no cure.

"The youngest I've ever taken care of with lung cancer was 25 (years old)," Atkins said. "He started smoking when he was 13, at 25 he had lung cancer, and at 26 he was dead. At 26 he wanted to get married but instead, he was buried."

But lung cancer isn't the only tobacco-related cancer around.

There is also, head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer and even bladder and kidney cancer related to tobacco consumption.

Atkins said this is because particles in tobacco products enter your system and are processed by the kidneys, and then remain in the bladder.

"There's a lot of cancers related to tobacco, so it's not just lung cancer," Atkins said.

There are signs to catch the potential developments of these cancers, also -- blood in the urine, lumps in the neck, sores in your mouth or even a change in your voice can all signal different forms of cancer.

While treatments and screenings for lung cancer have improved, and there are ways to treat other tobacco-related cancers, Atkins said the best way to not have to learn to deal with it is through prevention.

"The big thing, obviously, is prevention is worth a pound of cure," Atkins said. "The best thing is to prevent it by not using tobacco products."