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Lung Cancer Screenings: Improving Patient Outcomes

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Unlike early detection screening protocols for cancers of the breast, prostate and colon, lung cancer screening has only recently been accepted.

"We want the same early detection and vastly improved outcomes for patients with lung cancer that survivors of breast and colon cancers get from mammography and colonoscopy," said Dr. Paul Chomiak, who directs the Lung Cancer Screening Program at Sacred Heart Hospital. “If we can find more people with early stage lung cancer, we can potentially cure them.”

With standard chest X-ray, a lung cancer nodule has to be 10 mm, or about half an inch, to be detected. Studies have shown that people who got low-dose CT had 20 percent lower chance of dying from lung cancer than those who got chest x-rays, physicians now have more of an incentive to have high risk patients undergo lung cancer screenings.

CT scan lung nodule screening is recommended for high-risk patients who are:

• Adults between the ages of 55-80

• Current smokers, or those who have quit smoking in the last 15 years, with a 30 pack year history of smoking. To calculate pack years smoked, multiply the number of packs smoked per day by the number of years smoked.

• Adults age 50 with a 20 pack year smoking history and one other risk factor such as a family history of lung cancer, personal history of other cancers or significant history of exposure to certain environmental factors such as asbestos or radon.

If there is a family history of lung cancer, then patients as young as 50 or with a 20 pack-year smoking history can undergo screening. To determine if your patient is a candidate for CT Lung Nodule Screening, call 416-LUNG (416-5864).