Lung Cancer Prevention – Control the Controllables!


According to The American Cancer Society, lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women. Overall, the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 15; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 17. These numbers include both people who smoke and those who don't smoke. For people who smoke, the risk is much higher.

Dr. Kevin Palka specializes in Hematology and Oncology at the Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute. “I love to be at the forefront of the most innovative treatments I can offer my patients,” he shares. With over 13 years of experience in oncology, including academic appointments at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Washington University, Dr. Palka has provided a broad range of care to his patients.

His best advice for patients who are active smokers is “to enroll in a smoking cessation program” Cigarette smoking is the cause of 85-90% of all lung cancers, and lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in adults!” He also adds that “For patients who are actively smoking or who have a significant smoking history but quit, most expert groups endorse annual low-dose CT scans for lung cancer screening in patients aged 55-79. This reduces deaths from lung cancer.” For patients newly diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, Dr. Palka evaluates patients for treatment with immunotherapy (such as Keytruda) or oral drugs that target specific mutations. If possible, “we try to avoid the old-fashioned chemotherapy drugs. The newer treatments are much more effective and less toxic to patients.”

While there are things you can’t control, like air pollution, personal or family history of lung cancer, Dr. Palka recommends focusing on things you can control. These include exposure to tobacco smoke, second hand smoke, radon, asbestos, and other cancer-causing agents in the workplace.

In addition to lung cancer, Dr. Palka also treats patients with other types of cancers, solid tumors, blood cancers and benign hematology conditions. To find out more about how the exceptional cancer care team at Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute can help you, call 573-629-3500.