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New lung cancer specific support group in MI


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Angela Scott had always considered joining a support group when she was diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago, but she never found one.

“Sometimes you feel alone when you’re going through cancer,” said Scott, a wife and mother from Northville. “Sure, friends can be there for you. But someone who has gone through it knows exactly how you feel.

“It’s nice to have a group you can go to, to talk about your emotions and someone who can lift you up when you are first diagnosed.”

That’s one of the reasons David Sternberg, M.D., a thoracic surgeon at Botsford Hospital, Farmington Hills, founded a support group for lung cancer patients. Sternberg, a New York native, was recruited to Michigan four years ago to assist with lung transplants at Henry Ford Hospital. He started the lung cancer support group there and brought it with him to Botsford when he joined its staff last year. Group members, including Scott, followed him to Farmington Hills.

“I love going, the camaraderie, the people,” said Scott, whose late brother also had lung cancer. “Dr. Sternberg says people who go to support groups do better. I was glad when he started this group. I can’t thank him enough.”

The lung cancer support group meets 6-7:30 p.m. the third Monday of the month in Suite 230 at the Botsford Cancer Center, 27900 Grand River Ave., Farmington Hills. The free sessions are open to anyone living with lung cancer. Caregivers, family members and friends may attend the meetings, which feature guest speakers and discussion. The next meeting is June 16.

Sternberg said he founded the group after realizing that many cancer patients were depressed or anxious even after their surgeries had removed the disease from their lungs.

“My focus as a cancer surgeon was to get them through the surgery,” Sternberg said. “The problem was, then what? After I did the surgery and told them everything would be OK, the cancer was completely removed, they still had a lot of concerns. Medically there wasn’t anything left to do.

“If you’re scared, nervous, anxious and not sure what to do, you can call your physician, but you’re not going to get a call back on how to handle your feelings about lung cancer. You can make an appointment with a psychiatrist but if you don’t have a diagnosable psychiatric illness, the most they’re going to do is put you on Prozac, which is what happened a lot.

“What these patients really needed was to talk to another lung cancer patient.”

A bad rap

Sternberg discovered that although lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., it receives fewer research dollars than other cancers. He said patients also often draw criticism and blame for their illness, rather than support.

“The concept is that if you have lung cancer it’s because you smoked and if you smoked you really did this to yourself and you really deserve it,” he said. “My feeling was, why are these people getting such a bad rap? Eleven percent of patients who get lung cancer have never smoked.”

Sternberg said thousands of cases are attributed to radon gas found in some home basements. Genetics also play a role in developing the disease. He said many older patients with a history of smoking used tobacco during an era when even doctors smoked.

“It’s tricky to blame these patients and I think, unfair.”

He said the Botsford lung cancer support group draws patients from a variety of hospitals and medical practices. Some patients are undergoing treatment and some are in remission. They are diagnosed at various cancer stages.

“It’s a mixed bag. I never ask the patients what they get out of it. That’s none of my business,” he said. “I do the best I can to provide something I hope they’ll appreciate and come back for.”

Sternberg, who is board-certified in general surgery and thoracic surgery, uses minimally-invasive techniques and specializes in the treatment of lung and esophageal cancers. He received his medical degree with honors from New York University School of Medicine, completed a general surgery residency and a National Institute of Health-sponsored research fellowship in thoracic surgery and lung transplantation at Columbia University Medical Center. He trained in cardiothoracic surgery at Weil-Cornell University Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

For more information about the lung cancer support group, call the Botsford Cancer Center at 248-473-4828.

http://www.hometownlife.com/article/201 ... rie-advice

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