November 27, 2017

Lung Cancer – What You Need to Know in WNC

By Oliver A.R. Binns, MD

Lung cancer continues to be the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths in North Carolina with 54.6 deaths per 100,000 population – more deaths than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

A multidisciplinary, comprehensive approach has been shown to improve outcomes and quality of patient experience. At Mission Health, our Thoracic Oncology team includes radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, pathologists and radiologists – all at one location serving western North Carolina in the SECU Cancer Center.

Screening leads to early diagnosis

Early diagnosis remains the key to cure. Our team has developed a nationally accredited lung cancer screening program for the region. The screening exam utilizes low dose CT to find early-stage cancers in populations at increased risk for lung cancer. With the skill of our pulmonary medicine colleagues, using the most current imaging technologies and diagnostic tools, our goal is to diagnose lung cancer at the earliest possible time or stage.

Early diagnosis directly impacts survival, and early stage at the time of diagnosis remains the most important indicator of favorable outcomes. Unfortunately, most lung cancers are stage III or IV at the time of diagnosis, again emphasizing the need for further efforts in early diagnosis.

At Mission, however, more patients are diagnosed with stage I and II disease, and fewer patients with stage IV disease as compared to the average from the National Cancer Database. Efforts at early diagnosis will continue to have a positive impact for the region, emphasizing the importance of low dose CT screenings.

Your care after diagnosis

Our care plans at Mission are individualized, compassionate and patient centered. Whether your care involves thoracic surgery, medical oncology and/or radiation oncology, each discipline performs at the highest level.

In addition to your physician team, our nurse navigators, nutritionists and research nurses support your care. Nurse navigators provide “one point of contact” to help patients understand their care and provide guidance through this difficult life experience. Research nurses evaluate every patient for potential treatment trials, expanding available therapies if indicated. This is a unique care model in western North Carolina.

Mission’s Personalized Medicine Program also supports our clinicians and patients, ensuring that evidence-based cutting-edge testing and drug treatments are accessible to our patients. Even rare mutations in a patient’s lung cancer can often be matched to a drug on the market or a clinical trial to give the patient the best opportunity to get a drug that might be able to treat their cancer.

Lung cancer is among the leading causes of death in our community, but early diagnosis can prevent these deaths. When the disease is discovered, western North Carolinians are fortunate to have access to thoracic oncology care at the highest level in the form of individualized, compassionate and patient-centered care that is delivered with a multidisciplinary, comprehensive approach.

Oliver A.R. Binns, MD, is the Director of Thoracic Oncology at Mission Cancer Care.

To learn more about your local options for avoiding, diagnosing, treating and surviving lung cancer, contact Mission Cancer Care at (828) 213-2500, or visit

References: North Carolina Division of Public Health – Cancer in North Carolina 2013; Report data from The Advisory Board Company Oncology Roundtable; N ENG J MED 377:9, 1849-1861, 2017.