FirstHealth Dr. Pritchett

Dr. Michael Pritchett, a pulmonary and critical care physician with Pinehurst Medical Clinic, in a hybrid operating room in the Reid Heart Center at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.

Each year, approximately 228,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer. Each year, lung cancer accounts for about 26 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States. And it doesn’t just affect smokers.

November is lung cancer awareness month — a time dedicated to educating the public about the prevalence of lung cancer. FirstHealth’s state-of-the-art pulmonary care, operating under the Chest Center of the Carolinas, has made early detection and prevention of lung cancer their top priority, offering free online screening tests to see if you qualify for a low-dose CT scan. 

Michael Pritchett, a pulmonary care doctor at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, works to help both former smokers and those who have never used tobacco through a lung cancer diagnosis.

“The most rewarding part of my job is my connection with my patients. I feel a great sense of responsibility to them as I guide them through the various stages of their medical journey,” Pritchett told The Sway last year. 

Pritchett uses an electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy system, an endobronchial ultrasound and cone beam computed tomography (CT) equipment to make diagnoses. According to Pritchett, the equipment can detect lesions that are the size of a pea, which measures at about 4 millimeters. 

Though non-smokers are still susceptible to lung cancer, Pritchett says the best thing someone can do to prevent developing the disease is to avoid using tobacco products, maintain a healthy and balanced diet and get plenty of exercise. 

He added that that those with jobs that involve inhaling anything should ensure that the work area is well-ventilated. The use of a respiratory device can add more protection. 

“We take for granted all the things that we inhale into our lungs,” Pritchett said. 

For smokers, FirstHealth has developed the FirstQuit program, a series of classes that helps those who currently use tobacco products kick the habit for good by helping them create customized quit plans, develop coping strategies and identify triggers. 

The program also offers regular support groups that tobacco users can utilize, small group and one-to-one health education and medication like nicotine patches and gum to aid their quitting process. When it comes to avoiding cancer and disease, and to improve overall health, anytime is a good time to quit. 

Preventing infections like the flu also helps lower your risk for lung cancer. Pritchett recommends that each person over the age of six months should get their influenza vaccination each year. 

Current tobacco users are invited to attend FirstHealth’s local FirstQuit classes. Classes take place the first and third Thursday of the month, and the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at FirstHealth Community Health center in Pinehurst. Those interested can learn more here. 

FirstHealth also invites everyone — not just past and present tobacco users — to take this free lung cancer screening to see if you qualify for a low-dose CT scan. 

“Even here in this small town where we live, I have multiple patients who have never smoked and all have advanced stage lung cancer,” Pritchett has told The Pilot. “It is not just a disease of smokers.”

 

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