Diagnosis: Lung Cancer Part Two

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - "There's like over 400 people that die every day of lung cancer. It's like a jumbo jet liner crashing every single day and if that was happening, somebody would be talking now and changing that," says Deb Violette.

She is trying to do that through her foundation, Free ME From Lung Cancer. She's also a lung cancer survivor.

"I'm happy to say that we will be funding our first hundred thousand dollar research grant this year."

She says they've teamed up with an international association that works with researchers around the world working to find a cure.

"They're going to match our fund, so it's going to be a $200,000 grant and we have decided we want to go early detection," she says.

Early detection through CT scans is something oncologist Dr. Antoine Harb at Eastern Maine Medical Center's Cancer Care Center says is critical for people to understand because it can save lives, especially those with stage one, two and three lung cancer.

"There's a big difference when you detect an early stage lung cancer because early stage detection means potential for cure," says Dr. Harb.

He says CT scans for smokers and former smokers in their 50's should happen annually. It only takes a couple of minutes.

"We have a lung cancer screening program at Eastern Maine Medical Center that has been going on for the last 3 to 4 years, and we've done hundreds and hundreds of screenings," he says.

Dr. Harb says there have been major advances in imaging technology used to find and monitor lung cancer, like PET scans, which they can do at their facilities.

They are the only center in Maine working directly with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and have a comprehensive clinical research team doing work in Brewer.

"We have 51 clinical trials going on here at the Cancer Center right now. But 10 of them are specifically related to lung cancer," he says.

Treatment has also come a long way and has a brighter outlook.

"I do believe one of the biggest advances in lung cancer over the past five years is immunotherapy, and it has changed the way we look at lung cancer."

Lung cancer prevention is something Lieutenant Jason Mills with the Augusta Fire Department is committed to, especially with alarming studies linking lung cancer to smoke and chemicals from firefighter gear.

He says their department has been able to take extra precautions with their new fire station.

Mills has also worked for the last 15 years to protect people from the invisible dangers of radon through his radon mitigation business. Radon is common in Maine.

"Mitigation is the process of eliminating radon from the house. Radon comes in two sources. It's either in the water or in the air," says Mills.

Mills says the equipment can easily be installed and can the radon easily take care of.

"It comes from the breakdown of uranium in granite and in Maine, we're pretty much sitting on the granite everywhere. So as the granite breaks down, it breaks down through several different categories until it gets to radon, and radon is what causes the potential for lung cancer. Everybody that really has a house in Maine needs to test their house," says Mills.

"The world organization put out a statement that the very air you breathe can cause lung cancer," says Violette.

"In 2016, we decided to put a little money aside to give single family, low income homeowners access to radon abatement systems," she says.