This blog post is part of the Google+ Healthy Hangouts series on breaking and timely health news.
In October, we heard a lot about breast cancer. This month, prostate cancer is the hot topic.
Yet, each year more Americans die from lung cancer than both these cancers combined. A big reason why is because lung cancer usually isn’t caught until its later stages. However, low dose CT scanning, a new screening protocol for lung cancer, may hold the key to changing that.
In this Google+ Healthy Hangout, I’m joined by Cherese Wiley, M.D., and Roger Khetan, M.D., both internal medicine physicians on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, as well as Jay Patel, M.D., a radiologist on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Irving, and Kartik Konduri, M.D., an oncologist on the medical staff at Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.
We’re discussing this new screening option, who should receive a low dose CT scan and the challenges of lung cancer.
Facts about Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, which is mostly contributed to smoking, a top risk factor for lung cancer.
Quitting smoking dramatically reduces the risk of lung cancer, regardless of how long a person has smoked.
National Lung Screening Trial
One of the biggest challenges associated with lung cancer is catching it early because symptoms usually don’t present until late in the disease process. Unfortunately, chest x-rays are not an adequate tool for screening.
The National Lung Screening trial involved more than 54,000 participants. The results showed that using low dose CT scanning increases survival rates in lung cancer patients because it can detect the cancer early before any symptoms appear.
Low Dose CT Scans
A low dose computed tomography (CT) scan for lung cancer uses about one-fifth the amount of radiation as a standard CT scan to capture detailed images of the lungs.
The scan only takes about five minutes and, at Baylor, results are available to ordering physicians the next day. If results come back positive, additional testing or a biopsy may be recommended.
Since the practice is still new, insurers may not pay for it. However, generally low dose CT is available at a relatively low out-of-pocket cost to those at risk for lung cancer.
Right now, low dose CT is recommended for people ages 55 to 75 who have what is termed a 30-pack a year history of smoking. That means someone who has smoked about a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years, etc.
These recommendations will likely change as low dose CT scans become more widely used.
In addition, non-smokers who are at risk for lung cancer due to family history, exposure to chemicals like asbestos or radon, or who may have other risk factors should consult their physician to see if they should receive a low dose CT scan.
The best way to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking or never start. There is a wide variety of resources to help people quit including counseling, nicotine patches, e-cigarettes, prescription medication and smoking cessation programs.
Learn more from our Google+ Hangout below: