(Nov. 13, 2017) – All too often, lung cancer is diagnosed too late, when it is difficult to treat. Indeed, only 16 percent of lung cancer is found early, in the localized stage, when treatments are much more effective. Five-year survival rates are less than 20 percent.
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System hopes to help more people beat those odds with a new Lung Cancer Screening Program that can detect cancerous nodules and lesions at the earliest, most treatable stages.
One of the cancer team’s top priorities is encouraging high-risk smokers and ex-smokers to begin annual screenings with low-dose CT scans. While chest X-rays may show a visible mass or nodule, a CT (computed tomography) is the only proven effective way to screen for lung cancer, says Sarasota Pulmonologist Joe Seaman, MD, who oversees Sarasota Memorial’s lung cancer screening program.
Screenings are not recommended for everyone. Currently, lung cancer screening is recommended (and covered by most insurance plans and Medicare) for those at high risk of developing lung cancer – people between the ages of 55-77 who have smoked an average of one pack a day for 30 years (or two packs a day for 15 years). The criteria include current smokers as well as those who have quit in the past 15 years.
“Although many causes of lung cancer have been identified, cigarette smoking is far and away the strongest determinant, and we know this group is at highest risk,” said Dr. Seaman, adding that lung cancer rates are typically higher among men than women, and are particularly high among African American men.
Experts agree that low-dose CT screening for lung cancer carried out safely can save tens of thousands of lives a year. But because of the potential for false positives and radiation exposure, the American Cancer Society urges people at high risk to discuss the risks and benefits of screening with their healthcare provider so they can make an informed decision about whether to get screened.
Screenings should be done only at facilities that offer low-dose CT scanners and have a team of specialists experienced in lung cancer screening that can offer the comprehensive follow-up care needed by patients with abnormal results, said SMH’s Lung Cancer Screening Program Coordinator Amie Miller, ARNP.
Sarasota Memorial is among a select number of hospitals nationally that has been designated a Lung Cancer Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance; it also earned designation last month as a Lung Cancer Screening Center by the American College of Radiology. The designations recognize facilities that have committed to practice safe, effective diagnostic care for individuals at the highest risk for lung cancer.
For information about Sarasota Memorial’s Lung Cancer Screening Program, call (941) 917-5864 (LUNG).
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month
The most effective way to lower your lung cancer risk is to stay away from tobacco, and quit if you are still smoking or using tobacco products.
For those trying to quit, SMH has a number of lung health initiatives under way, including the “Great American Smoke Out: A Virtual Discussion," a Facebook Live-stream presentation with a panel of SMH pulmonology, lung cancer screening and tobacco treatment experts. Facebook viewers can tune in to SMH’s Facebook page at 11 am Thursday, Nov. 16. Participants can email questions to HealthConnection@smh.com prior or during the event with questions for the experts.
SMH also partners with Tobacco Free Florida/AHEC to offer “Tools to Quit,” a proven tobacco cessation program that offers free monthly classes, and free nicotine replacement tools (patch, gum, etc) while supplies last.
For information on the Great American Smoke Out or Tools to Quit programs, call SMH’s HealthConnection at (941) 917-7011.
About Sarasota Memorial
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of care, with more than 900,000 patient visits each year. Its flagship 829-bed, acute-care hospital has been consistently recognized as one of the nation’s largest and best, with superior patient outcomes and a complete continuum of outpatient services – from urgent care, trauma and emergency services to laboratory and diagnostic imaging, home health, skilled nursing and rehabilitation. SMH is the only hospital in Florida with the highest five-star ranking from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid for quality and safety.