Lung cancer remains the deadliest of all cancers, taking more lives than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. The reason: Lung cancer symptoms often don't appear until the later stages when treatment options are more limited.
We talked to Don Dumont, MD, pulmonologist at Franciscan Physician Network in Munster, Indiana, about who is most at risk for lung cancer, and why annual lung screenings are the best way to protect yourself.
Why is Lung Screening Important?
Lung cancer tends to grow quietly and doesn't cause symptoms until a vital structure like a major airway or blood vessel is disturbed by the growth. As a result, we often don't find the disease until it's at a late stage.
Until recently, there were no good screening tests for lung cancer, but lung screenings can now detect cancer at early stages.
What are the Advantages of Early Lung Cancer Treatment?
The best way to cure lung cancer is to surgically remove it. You have that option if your lung cancer is in the earlier stages, particularly stage one. Having surgery to remove a lung cancer tumor successfully eliminates the disease in about 60 percent of patients. But once the lung cancer has spread outside the lung to other organs, surgery is no longer an option.
Who Needs a Lung Screening?
People who are at high risk of developing lung cancer should get a lung screening every year. You are considered high risk if you:
- Are 55 to 80 years old
- Have a smoking history of 30 “pack years” (Pack years are estimated by taking the average number of cigarette packs you smoked per day and multiplying by the number of years you have been a smoker. For example: 2 packs per day for 15 years = 30 pack years.)
- Either continue to smoke or have quit within the last 15 years
What is a Lung Screening Like?
A lung screening is simply a CT (computerized tomography) scan, or a series of X-ray views taken from multiple angles. It’s a quick and easy procedure that provides doctors with images of your lungs.
You just lay down on a table that passes through a tube. It takes about 10 seconds, and there are no needles or injections. You receive the results within a few days.
Why Do You Need to Get a Lung Screening Every Year?
It's vitally important to get an annual lung screening. That's because you can still develop lung cancer at any point in time, even if past screenings have been negative.
We've seen cases where the first couple of screenings were clear, but in later screenings a tumor was found. Some forms of lung cancer can grow incredibly fast, even in a year's time.
We offer lung cancer screenings at various locations throughout Illinois and Indiana, some for as low as $49. (Some insurance companies may cover the cost. Please check with your insurance provider.) If you or a loved one is at risk of developing the disease, schedule a lung cancer screening today.
What’s the Best Way to Prevent Lung Cancer?
The single best way to reduce the risk of lung cancer is to stop smoking. If you quit today, in seven years you’ll be five times less likely to develop lung cancer than if you continued heavy smoking. It's never too late to quit smoking.
Learn more about our tobacco cessation programs and how we can help you quit.
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