From WCMS Physician’s Voice:
“Lung Cancer Screening for older adults ”
written by Dr. Raymond Thertulian from Asheville Hematology & Oncology
Are you a smoker or a former smoker and over the age of 55? Then, listen up!
Well, even if you are not a smoker, you need to know this. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has recently given approval to your doctors and other providers to perform lung cancer screening just like they do for mammogram for breast cancer, for example.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men behind prostate cancer and in women behind breast cancer. However, in 2015, it is estimated that 221,200 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer and a total of 158,040 will die of the disease making it the most common cause of cancer deaths for both men and women in the United States. Lung cancer is a major public health concern.
For a long time, researchers have tested ways to screen for lung cancer to decrease lung cancer death. Chest X-ray is not good enough for that task. Finally, in 2001, researchers at Cornell in NYC and McGill University in Montreal Canada published their findings demonstrating that it would be feasible to screen for lung cancer using Low Dose CT scans. Low dose CT scans reduce the patients’ exposure to radiation as compared to regular CT scan.
In 2011, lung cancer researchers published the results of a large clinical trial that studied screening for lung cancer using low dose CT scans in more than 53,000 smokers and former smokers to see whether they could diagnose lung cancer early enough for cure and reduce the death rate from lung cancer. The results showed a significant reduction of lung cancer death by 20% over chest x-rays. Considering the number of people who die of this disease, 20% reduction in lung cancer death represents a significant number of people.
Based on the results of this trial, The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued guidelines for lung cancer screening that they will pay for.
LISTEN UP! If you are 55 or older (up to 77 years old) AND have smoked 1 pack per day for 30 years or more (or the equivalent, such as 2 packs per day for 15 years or ½ pack per day for 60 years for example), even if you quit (less than 15 years ago), you may be eligible to be screened for lung cancer. Call your primary care provider!
Screening for lung cancer may help detect lung cancer earlier, at a stage when it may still be curable with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Please see your doctor if you’re not sure how to quantify your smoking history or to determine if you qualify for screening. It may save your life or someone in your life.
The best way to prevent lung cancer is not to smoke in the first place. Please talk to your doctor about smoking cessation aid. Please pass the word around. As Ben Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And now it is paid by most insurance companies and by Medicare for those who qualify!
Dr. Raymond Thertulien is a board-certified Hematologist/Oncologist with Asheville Hematology & Oncology. He is a board member of the Western Carolina Medical Society Association. He studied medicine (MD) and did his doctoral studies (PhD) at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He did his Internal Medicine residency at Cornell and His Fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.