For years, regular chest X-rays were recommended for smokers and others who were at high risk of lung cancer. Low dose CT Scans are now recommended and covered by health insurers for certain individuals.
“Surgery is reserved for early stage lung cancer,” says McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Wayne Holley. “It may involve only part of a lung or an entire lung. Once the patient has had surgery and a hospital stay of 4 or 5 days, they can live a normal life. But it’s imperative that they stop smoking.”
THE KEY TO SURVIVAL
The problem is that 3 out of 4 cases are diagnosed too late for surgery to be beneficial. Early detection of lung cancer is really the key to survival, by getting patients diagnosed and into the system before they are at an advanced stage.
Until recently, we really haven’t had reasonable tests for early detection, because the tumors didn’t always show up well on X-rays. Historically, we’d wait until a patient developed symptoms – ether coughing up blood or shortness of breath. They we would start testing. Then they tried to do sputum (spit) samples, where you cough up sputum and submit it for testing. They’ve turned out to be very unreliable.
THE BREAKTHROUGH STUDY
In 2011, a very important study of more than 53,000 patients – with former or active smokers — was reported. Results showed a low dose CT scan of the chest was better than a chest X-ray for detecting lung cancers. In the study of patients 55-75 years of age with a 30-pack-year history of smoking (packs/day x years smoked), comparing CT scans to chest X-rays there was a 20% reduction in mortality using CT Scans for diagnosis.
ARE YOU A CANDIDATE?
Based on the results of this trial, in December 2013, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening for lung cancer using a low-dose CT in a specific group of patients:
For more information on the McLeod Lung Cancer Screening Program, click here or call 843-777-5953.
If you don’t have Medicare or private insurance or can’t afford the deductible (and meet certain financial criteria) funds ($200) are available from the organization McLeod Men to assist in paying for the screening.
A personal physician can refer you to the program. Or call the McLeod Foundation; they will put you in touch the Lung Nurse Navigator, 843-777-5640. She can help get you involved in the process to find out if you qualify for a “scholarship” from McLeod Men.