Lung Cancer Screenings Save Lives, here’s how you get one.

Pneumonia patient x-ray
Posted at 9:27 AM, Nov 25, 2020

LANSING, Mich. — Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer among both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Each year, about 228,820 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in the United States and about 135,720 people die from this disease. Most people with lung cancer don’t have symptoms until the cancer is advanced, so it is critical to be screened if you are between the ages of 55-80 and have a history of heavy smoking.

At very early stages, lung cancer may not exhibit symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include a cough that does not go away, coughing up blood, chest pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, shortness of breath, wheezing, or respiratory infections, such as bronchitis, that reoccur or do not go away. When lung cancer spreads, it may cause bone pain and jaundice or swelling of the lymph nodes.

To help detect lung cancer at an early stage, Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing offers lung cancer screenings []. The lung cancer screening CT is covered by most insurances with no out-of-pocket costs, however it’s recommended that you check with your insurance company to see if lung cancer screening is covered. If a suspicious lung nodule is found, further testing may be advised and may incur a deductible and out of pocket costs. Follow-up testing will be recommended depending upon the size and characteristics of the nodule. Not all lung nodules are cancerous, but it is important that lung nodules are monitored to observe for progression.

If you meet the eligibility criteria, it’s important that you get screened yearly,” said Becky Loomis, BSN, thoracic nurse navigator. “You should also watch for and discuss any new symptoms with your physician, including difficulty breathing or new persistent cough.”

Screening for lung cancer is a multi-step process. It begins with an office visit to assess needs and risks. Eligible candidates will then undergo low-dose CT scans. These scans are more sensitive than X-rays and can detect abnormalities in the lungs. Scans are then read by a radiologist.

“If a person meets the criteria for a lung cancer screening, they will be scheduled for a shared decision- making appointment with a primary care provider. In this appointment the physician will go over risks versus benefits of the screening and discuss next steps if something comes back abnormal,” said Loomis. “The screening itself is roughly 2 minutes and doesn’t require any preparation.”

The leading risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. If you are a current smoker, it’s important to stop smoking. To help you quit, McLaren offers smoking cessation support groups using the American Lung Association’s “Freedom From Smoking” program.

Other risk factors include second-hand smoke, exposure to radon or other carcinogens, and arsenic in drinking water. Some risk factors for lung cancer cannot be controlled; these include air pollution and family history.

“While most people who develop lung cancer were previously smokers, we also see lung cancer patients who have never smoked,” said Loomis. “It’s important to avoid secondhand smoke and to get your home tested for radon, which is an invisible gas that can cause lung cancer.”

Men and women ages 55-80 who are current smokers or who quit no more than 15 years ago, with at least a 30-pack-per-year smoking history, should be screened for lung cancer. Click here [] to learn more about lung cancer screening at Karmanos.

Are you are interested in learning more about the virtual smoking cessation classes? Contact Becky Loomis at (517) 975-8030.

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