STOP… in the name of love!!!
Everybody has heard of mammogram screening for breast cancer. Everybody has heard of Pap smear screening for cervical cancer. Everyone probably knows about screening for colon and prostate cancer. What you might not have heard about is screening for lung cancer. Why is this important?
Lung cancer kills more men and women than any other type of cancer. It accounts for 27% of all cancer deaths–more than deaths from cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon combined. Yet, until recently, there was no screening test for lung cancer.
Being diagnosed with lung cancer is scary. However, lung cancer does not have to be a death sentence. In 2011 the National Lung Screening Trial reported that individuals who were screened for lung cancer with a low dose CT scan had a 20% lower risk of dying from lung cancer than those individuals who were screened with a standard chest x-ray. This study was finally proof that early detection of lung cancer can result in increased cure.
For lung cancer screening to be effective, it is important that only those persons at high risk be screened. High risk is defined by age, years of smok- ing, duration or years since the person may have stopped, as well as by other possible exposures. Sim- plified – anyone between 55-74 who has smoked the equivalent of 30 pack years is at high risk (# of packs you smoke per day times # of years smoked = pack years). If someone who has smoked at least 30 pack years has quit smoking within the last 15 years, that person is still at sufficient risk to be screened.
Additional risks may also play a role. If a person is 50 or older, with at least 20 pack years of smoking and any other exposure or factor that adds to their risk such as a previous malignancy, radon exposure, or asbestos or other occupational exposure – he has sufficient risk to be screened.
The program involved in the screening is im- portant. Clearview Cancer Institute launched its lung screening program in 2012 after seeing the devastating effects of diagnosing lung cancer in its later stages. We really felt we had a mission and obligation to the community to make lung cancer screening as universally accepted as mammography is for breast cancer.
We were joined by our colleagues in- volved in the diagnosis and care of patients with possible lung cancer, as well as the Huntsville Hospital Health System. With support and effort of all and additional funding from the Russel Hill Cancer Foundation and the Alpha Foundation, we developed the Southeast Lung Alliance. This is a program dedicated to increasing the awareness of Lung Cancer Screening and supporting tobacco cessation as the mainstay in prevention of this most lethal disease.
In our community hundreds of your family, friends, and co-workers have already been screened and, yes, some have had their lives saved by finding an unsuspected cancer early enough to be cured.
If you or any of your loved ones smoke – stop! But whether you stop now or not, enroll in a screen- ing program for early detection of lung cancer. It could save your life or the life of the one you love.
For more information, go to www.selungalliance.org or www.clearviewcancer.com
or discuss lung cancer screening with your physician.
by Marshall T. Schreeder, MD , MPH Clearview Cancer Institute