Find lung cancer early with annual screenings

Health

Find lung cancer early with annual screenings

Many people are familiar with mammograms and colonoscopies, but the availability and importance of lung cancer screening isn’t as widely known.
According to a study conducted by the American Lung Association, only 36 percent of people know that screening is available for lung cancer. It is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, claiming more lives annually than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined.
Radiation oncologist Dr. Nicole Anderson who sees patients at the MUSC Health Tidelands Health Radiation Therapy Center, part of the Tidelands Health Cancer Care Network, says lung cancer screenings, like other preventive screenings such mammograms and colonoscopies, can help save or extend lives.
The Tidelands Health Cancer Care Network is our region’s most comprehensive provider of cancer care and an affiliate of the MUSC Health Hollings Cancer Center, a National Institutes of Cancer-designated cancer center.
“If we catch your cancer early, you are more likely to live longer,” she says. “Your outcome is typically better than a patient who has not been diagnosed with early-stage cancer through a screening.”

Painless and quick

Lung cancer screenings are conducted using a low-dose CT scan, which uses X-ray technology to take multiple pictures of your lungs while you’re lying on a table that slides in and out of a machine. Computer software combines the images into a detailed picture of your lungs. The scan is noninvasive, painless and quick.

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Smoking cigarettes is the biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer. To qualify for a lung cancer screening, you must meet these criteria:

  • Be between the ages of 50 to 80 years old
  • Have a 20-pack year history of smoking cigarettes (one pack per day for 20 years, two packs per day for 10 years, etc.)
  • Be a current smoker or have smoked within the past 15 years

“Screening is important because there’s plenty of research that shows patients who are screened have a significant improvement in mortality,” Dr. Anderson says. “There’s not many things that improve survival to such a degree as screening.”

Early identification

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force establishes guidelines for cancer screenings, including lung cancer screening. The task force recommends people who meet the criteria receive a lung cancer screening once a year until they no longer meet the eligibility criteria.

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If a suspicious area is identified on the screening, Dr. Anderson says you’ll typically be referred to a pulmonologist to determine if it is cancer. Additional testing may be ordered and, depending on the outcome, your pulmonologist will consult with a thoracic surgeon, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist to determine the best course of treatment.
“When it’s very early-stage cancer, the options are much greater, much more tolerable, much more effective,” Dr. Anderson says.
Lung cancer screening is often covered by health insurance for people who meet the eligibility criteria. To schedule a screening, speak with your care providerA physician referral is required to receive a lung cancer screening at Tidelands Health. 

 

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