21
September
2016
|
06:00 AM
America/New_York

What You Need to Know About Low-Dose CT Screening for Lung Cancer

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Eliot Friedman, MD, is LVHN's chief of the division of hematology-medical oncology and an oncologist for LVPG Hematology Oncology–1240 Cedar Crest. He’s been fighting cancer for over 30 years and aspires to make the future brighter for his patients with more advanced treatments and clinical trials offered in the Lehigh Valley. 

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As a medical oncologist, I see how lung cancer impacts lives every day. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., and 85 percent of lung cancer is related to cigarette smoking.

Despite the known risks, it breaks my heart to still see so many people smoking. If you’ve smoked for much of your life, even if you’ve stopped within the last 15 years, you should consider getting a low-dose CT scan.

If you show no symptoms, this screening is important because the symptoms generally associated with lung cancer – persistent cough, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue – aren’t likely to appear until a more advanced stage of the disease, which is then harder to treat.

If you are between the ages of 55 to 77 and have smoked a pack a day for 30 years, you are considered high risk for lung cancer and would be eligible for a CT scan by most health insurance carriers. However, I have seen patients who do not meet these criteria who are still at risk.

If you are a non-smoker but have been exposed to potential hazards such as radon or asbestos, you should consider getting a CT scan. If you have a concern about the health of your lungs, make an appointment with your primary care physician who can better assess your situation.

Examples of someone who doesn’t meet the criteria but still would be at risk include:

  • A person who is younger than 55, but who has a 30 pack year smoking history (one pack a day for 30 years; two packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
  • A person who is 55 or older, has a 30 pack year smoking history, but who stopped smoking more than 15 years ago
  • A person who began smoking as a youngster and may have been less than a 30 pack years smoking history

It’s always a good idea to talk to your primary care physician about your smoking history, any environmental/occupational exposures you may have encountered, or your family’s cancer history. It’s a good bet your family doctor understands your health profile better than anyone.

Are you at risk for lung cancer? Take your doctor’s advice and go from there.