Prioritize Your Lung Cancer Screening
An estimated 127,000 Americans will die this year from lung cancer, a number that is equal to the combined deaths of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Those numbers from the National Cancer Institute emphasize the need for lung cancer screenings, which can detect potential cancerous cells before a patient exhibits symptoms, leading to a wider range of treatment options. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
“The idea, like with other cancers, is that if you catch it early, the survival rate is markedly improved,” said Dr. Suman Sinha, chief of pulmonary medicine at CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic.
Sinha recommends that people between the ages 50 to 80 who smoked at least one pack a day for 20 years or half a pack for 40 years, is a current smoker, or has quit smoking in the last 15 years, get screened.
Smoking is widely considered the leading cause of lung cancer.
“There are around 15 million Americans that fall into those categories that we highly recommend get a lung cancer screening,” Sinha said. “Unfortunately, the national screening rate of that group is only about 6%, so the health care industry is working hard to encourage more screenings.”
Lung screenings typically include a chest X-ray, a low dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan, PET scan or blood testing. If an area of concern is located through screening, further testing is ordered to determine any potential cancerous cells.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the death rate for lung cancer patients has fallen more than 25% over the past 25 years.
“Medicine is becoming smarter and smarter, and we are seeing some real breakthroughs in how we treat cancer, whether through chemotherapy, targeted therapies or surgical options,” Sinha said. “The key is that we know what we are dealing with, and from there we can take the appropriate approach to each patient.”
Patients interested in lung cancer screening should talk to their primary care provider or visit www.christushealth.org to learn more.