Lung Cancer Screening
Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States. It
is the leading cause of cancer deaths in American men and women. It kills
more men than prostate and colon cancer combined and more women than breast
and colon cancer combined.
Who is at risk for lung cancer?
More than 80 percent of lung cancers are associated with smoking. The
more a person smokes and the younger the person started, the higher the
risk. High levels of radon gas, air pollution, chest radiation, and asbestos
exposure may also increase one’s risk.
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread, but
some people with early lung cancer do have symptoms. If you go to your
doctor when you first notice symptoms, your cancer might be diagnosed
at an earlier stage, when treatment is more likely to be effective.
Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other
than lung cancer. Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s
important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and
treated, if needed.
The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:
- A cough that does not go away or gets worse
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
- Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or weak
- Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or
keep coming back
- New onset of wheezing
If lung cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it may cause:
- Bone pain (like pain in the back or hips)
- Nervous system changes (such as headache, weakness or numbness of an arm
or leg, dizziness, balance problems, or seizures), from cancer spread
to the brain
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), from cancer spread to the liver
- Swelling of lymph nodes (collection of immune system cells) such as those
in the neck or above the collarbone
Is there a screening test for lung cancer?
Yes, for asymptomatic (no symptoms) high-risk patients. In June 2011,
the National Cancer Institute announced the primary results of the National
Lung Cancer Screening Trial. This study showed that high-risk persons
who received at least three annual low-dose helical chest CT screens had
a 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than participants who
received standard chest x-rays.
Who qualifies as high risk to be screened for lung cancer?
Are 50 to 80 years old and in fairly good health,
Currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years,
- Have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history. (This is the number of packs
of cigarettes per day multiplied by the number of years smoked. For example,
someone who smoked 2 packs a day for 10 years [2 x 10 = 20] has 20 pack-years
of smoking, as does a person who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years [1 x
20 = 20].)
How good is the Screening Chest CT in detecting possible lung cancer?
No screening test is 100 percent reliable. It is possible to have lung
cancer and it not be seen on the chest CT. This is called a false negative.
A false positive is when the screening shows something that is suspicious
for lung cancer, but the person does not have lung cancer. In this instance,
additional imaging tests and possibly a biopsy may need to be performed
to rule out cancer. Also, the screening chest CT may find other disease
that will require additional testing.
Ask about lung cancer screening?
Many private insurance providers, Medicare and Medicaid provide coverage
are changing whether or not they will pay for all or part of for lung
cancer screening. It is also possible that further testing may be required.
These costs may or may not be covered by one’s insurance plan.
To schedule a lung cancer screening, call 828.326.6065.