November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. For many individuals in our community, battling the disease is already a part of their lives. For others, taking steps to prevent lung cancer and getting screenings that detect the deadly disease earlier can be life-saving steps.
It should be a no-brainer that the most effective step to take in the prevention of lung cancer is to quit smoking. About 90% of lung cancer is attributed to cigarette smoke - even second hand smoke causes lung cancer. So before you do anything else, quit smoking and if someone around you is smoking, take action to rid your air space of their dangerous habit. While cigarette smoking is an undisputed cause of lung cancer, not all cases of lung cancer occur in smokers or former smokers. As many as 20% of the people who die from lung cancer in the United States every year do not smoke or use any other form of tobacco.
Getting the appropriate screening can tell your doctor if you have lung cancer, enabling you to get early treatment and increase your chances of surviving and living a good life. Several years ago, the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons (AATS) published lung cancer screening guidelines as a result of the National Lung Screening Trial. As a result, lung screening programs are using guidelines that better detect this deadly disease earlier. The study revealed that low dose chest CT screenings could reduce lung cancer mortality by 20% in roughly 7 million of the estimated 94 million former or current smokers in America.
There is very specific criteria for this type of screening and is based on three high risk categories identified by the AATS. It might be surprising that you might not qualify just because you are a smoker. Instead the screening criteria looks at several factors that place people at the most risk. The eligibility requirements for a CT lung screening are:
- Age 55-77
- Asymptomatic (you are without signs or symptoms of current disease)
- Smoking history of 30 pack years (A person could have a 30 pack year history by smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years)
- Current smoker or stopped in the last 15 years or less
- Involved in shared decision making with your physician
If you think that you're at risk, talk to your doctor about getting the appropriate screening. If you are interested in a CT lung screening, you can attend Coliseum Medical Centers' CT Lung Screening event on Tuesday, November 8 anytime between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The cost is $150, which may be lower depending on insurance. Dr. Norman Hetzler and Dr. Jonathan Dean will also give a free lunch and learn presentation at 12 Noon. To register for for one or both of these events, call (478) 746-4646 or register online here.
If a suspicious tumor is found, you need to find a qualified lung specialist or surgeon. The only cure for lung cancer is to remove the tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation can slow a tumor's growth but it can't get rid of the cancer.
For more information on treatment options and screenings for lung cancer, or for a referral to a qualified lung specialist, call our free health information and physician referral line at (478) 746-4646.