Lung Cancer Screenings: Early Detection Saves Lives

posted by Erin Peterson on Monday, January 30, 2023

Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in the United States; however, it is by far the leading cause of cancer deaths.  This year, the American Cancer Society estimates about 236,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed and more than 130,000 individuals will die this year because of lung cancer.

The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 56 percent for cases detected when the disease is still localized (within the lungs). However, only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. For distant tumors (spread to other organs) the five-year survival rate is only 5 percent. The bottom line is - early detection can save lives.

At Spencer Hospital, we can help. Spencer Hospital’s Diagnostic Imaging Center is recognized by the American College of Radiology as a designated Lung Cancer Screening Center and we participate in an accredited program for the early detection of lung cancer.

If you meet the guidelines, Medicare and most insurance providers will cover the cost of the screening. In March of 2021, the US Preventative Services Task Force updated its lung cancer screening guidelines. These new recommendations nearly doubled the number of individuals eligible for screening. Patients who meet the following criteria are eligible for an annual low-dose CT scan (LDCT) to screen for lung cancer:

  • Individuals must be within the ages of 50-77.
  • Screening is highly recommended if you are a current smoker or have quit smoking within the past 15 years.
  • Have a tobacco smoking history of 20+ pack year history, which for example means they’ve routinely smoked one pack a day for 20 years, or they’ve smoked two packs a day for 10 years.
  • Have NO signs or symptoms of lung cancer and no major medical issues that would prevent having a cancer work-up and treatments if discovered during screening.

Patients who qualify are screened using low-dose computed tomography, which is commonly referred to as a low-dose CT scan. If someone meets the criteria for a low-dose CT lung cancer screening, it is recommended that they are screened annually – it’s definitely not a one-and-done screening.

It’s important to remember that an abnormal scan does not necessarily mean the person has cancer. Additional testing may be needed to determine a full diagnosis. Your physician is your health partner in this process. A referral from your family physician is required. We encourage people who think they meet the criteria to talk with their providers to determine if a lung cancer screening is right for them. I can’t emphasize enough - early detection is the key.

If you have a history of smoking or if you have symptoms, which could be a concern for lung cancer, talk to your doctor. Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Persistent coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Combined with chronic fatigue and unexplained weight loss

If someone is diagnosed with lung cancer, we’re extremely fortunate to work very closely with the cancer specialists and the entire oncology team at Abben Cancer of Spencer Hospital. New treatment modalities are available that specifically aid in treating lung cancers. Remember, successful treatment can occur with early detection. Talk to your physician soon to determine if low-dose CT lung screening is right for you.

  1. cancer
  2. screening

About The Author

Erin Peterson

Erin Peterson is a CT Technologist for Spencer Hospital Diagnostic Imaging Services.