Catching Lung Cancer Early Saves Lives

Catching Lung Cancer Early Saves Lives

Written by SMH Lung Cancer Screening Coordinator Amie Miller

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Screening and early detection save lives.

Does that sound familiar? You no doubt heard that often during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. But did you know that the same can be said for many other diseases as well? For example: Lung cancer can also be detected at early stages, dramatically improving survival rates for this deadly disease.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports statistical data yearly and estimates that in 2017, there will be 222,500 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed and 155,870 will die from lung cancer. Lung cancer is poised to take more lives this year than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined! Also according to the NIH, only 18.1 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer will survive five years or more. This means that out of 100 people diagnosed with lung cancer, only 18 will still be alive after five years.

Why is lung cancer so deadly?

All too often, lung cancer is diagnosed too late, when it is more difficult to treat. Only 16 percent of lung cancer is found early on, in the localized stage, where treatments are much more effective, and 57 percent are diagnosed at an advanced stage, where the cancer has already spread to other places in the body.

How can lung cancer be found early?

Lung cancer screening is relatively new, so many people who could benefit from the life-saving screening test don’t even know it exists. The screening involves using a Low-Dose CT scan (LDCT), a quick and painless test that can save lives.

A national lung-screening trial demonstrated that screening with low-dose CT scan decreases mortality by 20 percent. But it isn’t for everyone. It is intended only for those who are considered high risk.

What makes a person high risk for lung cancer? If you answered “smoking” or “having a smoking history,” you’re right. Those who smoke or who have a smoking history make up 85 to 90 percent of diagnosed lung cancers.

But just being a smoker or ex-smoker (who has quit within the last 15 years) aren’t the only criteria you need to meet to be eligible for lung-cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan. Other eligibility requirements include:

  • Being age 55 to 77
  • You’ve smoked a pack a day for 30 years or more (a 30 pack year history)

Medicare and many insurers cover annual lung cancer screening for those who meet the above criteria.

Is lung cancer screening for you?

If you meet the above eligibility requirements for LDCT, then talk to your doctor to determine whether lung cancer screening is right for you. You will also need an order from him/her for a low-dose CT Scan.

There are some online tools that can help you decide as well, and we encourage you check them out. But remember, while these tools are helpful, they do not take the place of having that conversation with your doctor.

At Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, our Lung Cancer Screening Program have performed more than 500 low-dose CT scans for lung cancer screening since its launch in January 2016. To find out more about the Lung Cancer Screening Program at SMH, click here or call 941-917-5864 (LUNG).

If you meet the above guidelines, GET SCREENED, it could save your life.

SMH Lung Cancer Screening Coordinator Amie Miller, MSN, ARNP, AOCNP, CTTS, is an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner and Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist. Through her work, she aims to help those at high risk detect lung cancer at its earliest stages and to help smokers reduce their cancer risks by quitting smoking.
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