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Is a lung cancer screening right for me?

By Mary W. Poole

Lung Cancer is the number one cancer killer in America.  With over 200,000 deaths per year, lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.  It is very difficult to diagnose lung cancer from your symptoms in the early stages, which is why over 90-percent of people who develop lung cancer die from the disease.
It is important to have your lung cancer screening testing before symptoms occur.  A test called low-dose spiral computed tomography (CT) is one type of screening that can reduce lung cancer deaths through early detection.  Results from the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) showed that older heavy smokers who were screened with low-dose CT scans had a 20-percent lower rate of death.  This test however is not recommended for everyone and has risks as well as benefits.  The American Lung Association recommends low-dose CT screening for people who meet the NLST criteria.
Common lung cancer symptoms
While most lung cancers do not cause symptoms until they have spread, see you physician right away if you are bothered by any of these conditions:
• blood in your spit
• chest pain
• hoarseness
• persistent cough
• recurring chest infections
• shortness of breath or wheezing
• weight loss or loss of appetite
At Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, we have implemented a new lung cancer screening program that can reduce deaths through early detection and treatment. In less than a minute, the non-invasive test checks for lung cancer in patients ages 55 to 80 years based on certain criteria.
This screening is available for individuals between the ages of 55 and 80 who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
To calculate your pack year history, multiply the number of packs smoked in one day by the number of years you have smoked.
What is a low-dose Lung CT Scan?
A low-dose lung CT scan produces more detailed images than a regular chest x-ray and may find early signs of cancer. To have a low-dose lung CT, you will be asked to lie on a narrow table and hold your breath as the table passes into an open ring, which moves around you during the test. It is painless and takes about 15 minutes.
What is the importance of lung cancer screening?
• Results from a National Lung Screening trial indicated 20-percent fewer deaths among current and former smokers who were screened with a low dose spiral CT over a chest x-ray.
• It is estimated over 80 percent of lung cancers could be cured it detected at an early stage.
• It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States, more than breast, colon and prostate combined.
• According to the American Cancer Society, 2012 statistics, lung cancer is expected to claim more than 160,340 lives.
• Chest X-rays are not recommended to screen for lung cancer.
If you are at risk for lung cancer, call the Scheduling Department at (409) 883-1196, no physician order is required.

Mary W. Poole is Director Public Relations at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas