Adam DeVine on Cancer
- Actor/comedian Adam DeVine opened up about the serious topic of his father’s lung cancer during a recent podcast.
- Thankfully, DeVine’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer at an early stage because the tumor in his lymph node pressed on a nerve and caused him to lose his voice. Unfortunately, symptoms for lung cancer don’t always show up early, so this symptom was as welcomed warning sign.
- Devine’s dad has recently gained some weight, but his doctor is happy with the change on the scale. One of our experts says it’s important for cancer patients to avoid losing too much weight during treatment.
The Pitch Perfect star had not previously said too much about his father’s cancer, but now we know how doctors found the tumor in one of his lymph nodes.Read More
“Usually with lung cancer you don’t find it until it’s too late,” DeVine said on the podcast. “And so we got lucky in the fact that his voice went out, and it has to be in a certain lymph node… it pressed on a nerve and then his voice went out, and they were like, ‘That’s the only way that we would’ve checked his lungs right now.'”
DeVine joked that his father’s cancer was “on his last nerve,” but also told listeners that despite his raspy voice, his dad ” sounds worse than he feels.” He’s even recently gained some weight – a good thing since people with cancer sometimes struggle with weight loss during treatment.
“My fat dad is fat a little now,” DeVine joked. “He’s recently put on like 20 pounds, but it’s good ’cause he just got the cancer… the doctor’s like pumped on his little extra pudge.”
Understanding Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer, and it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women in the United States.
As DeVine noted, symptoms for the disease often don’t appear until the cancer has spread, so diagnosis and treatment can be tricky. An initial symptom, for example, could be as serious as a seizure if the lung cancer has already spread to the brain. But other symptoms can include increased coughing, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent infections like bronchitis or pneumonia and even losing your voice – like in the case of DeVine’s dad.
The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell, which makes up 85 percent of cases, and small-cell. These types act differently and, accordingly, require different types of treatment. Dr. Patrick Forde, a thoracic oncologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells SurvivorNet about how distinguishing between the two types – and their subtypes – can be very beneficial.
“Within that non-small cell category, there’s a subtype called non-squamous adenocarcinoma, and that’s the group of patients for whom genetic testing is very important on the tumor,” he explains. “Genetic testing is looking for mutations in the DNA, in the tumor, which are not present in your normal DNA.”
Advancements in Treatment
Lung cancer is very serious, but the outlook is improving with smoking rates on the decline and improvements in surgical techniques and radiation delivery. Newer treatments like immunotherapy and targeted agents are also dramatically improving the length and quality of life for lung cancer patients. Targeted therapies, for example, allows doctors to target specific genetic mutations in lung cancer patients.
“It’s amazing to me now that you can have stage 4 lung cancer and actually not even need chemotherapy,” Dr. Brendon Stiles, chief of thoracic surgery & surgical oncology at Montefiore and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “If you have high expression of a protein that we know is targeted by immunotherapy, you may just get immunotherapy alone.”
Erlotinib (Tarceva) and gefitinib (Iressa) are among the first targeted drugs approved to treat lung cancer, he explained. These drugs have proven effective in prolonging the time that the cancer does not worsen in combination with chemotherapy and immunotherapy and when used alone. Given as pills, these and other similar drugs work by targeting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a protein that, when overreactive, makes cancer cells grow and divide.
These mutations are more common in people with lung cancer who are female or who have never smoked, Dr. Ronald Natale, director of the Lung Cancer Clinical Research Institute at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told SurvivorNet.
Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer
And, thankfully, we’ve seen steps towards other improvements in treatments as recently as last Friday when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new treatment for people with a type of lung cancer that is particularly resistant to treatment because it contains a genetic mutation called KRAS. The drug, called sotorasib (brand name: Lumakras), is meant for lung cancer patients whose tumors have a mutation called KRAS G12C and whose cancer has spread even after treatment with chemotherapy or other medications.
Weight and Cancer Treatment
Diet and exercise should still be a priority during a cancer battle. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Sairah Ahmed, associate professor in the division of cancer medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said that focusing on these things – in a healthy way – can help a person with cancer feel like they have more control.
“Diet, exercise and stress control are extremely important when going through cancer therapy, as well as once you’re done treating your cancer and trying to get back to the rest of your life,” she said.
Dr. Ahmed wants to remind people that none of the gimmicky diets are helpful for cancer-fighting. She says the main goal should be to simply consume nutritious foods.
“I’m asked about keto diets, alkaline diets, no-sugar diets,” she said. “Often I will tell patients there is not any one diet that has a better potential to keep their cancer away. There’s no data that shows that any of those help to treat cancer any better.”
However, she would probably support Adam DeVine’s sentiment on being happy for his father’s weight gain. She says it’s important for people with cancer to avoid losing weight during chemotherapy.
“You want to have a moderate diet where you’re including lots of fruits and vegetables, but you’re still eating fat and protein, and you want to maintain physical exercise,” she said.