CERAW, South Carolina — McLeod Health Cheraw now offers a new low-dose CT screening that plays a vital role in detecting lung cancer at earlier, more treatable stages. The national recommendation for lung cancer screenings using a low-dose CT scan in individuals who meet the following criteria:
— Age 55 to 80, who have also had a:
— Cumulative smoking history of 30-pack years or more,
— Who still smokes or who has this history but stopped smoking in the last 15 years,
— And, currently does not exhibit any symptoms of lung cancer. Medicare and most private insurance companies now cover the cost of the annual low-dose CT scan if an individual meets the criteria. Ages covered by Medicare range from 55 to 77; private insurance will pay for those 55 to 80. If an individual cannot afford the deductible (and meet certain financial criteria), there may assistance available.
“As with most cancers, early detection remains the key to survival. Until recently, there were not reasonable tests for early detection because the tumors did not always show up well on X-rays,” says Dr. Steven Glassman, McLeod radiologist. “Historically, a physician waited until a patient developed symptoms of lung cancer – either coughing up blood or shortness of breath – before they tested them.”
The most important factor for surgery being the primary option for treatment is detecting the cancer at an early stage. Identifying lung cancer at an early stage also potentially allows for less lung to be removed during surgery and also increases the cure rate due to the complete removal of the cancer. Surgery to completely remove lung cancer is often not an option for late stage lung cancers, and the treatment involves a combination of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Unfortunately, three out of four patients receive a diagnosis of late stage lung cancer.
The primary reason for this delayed detection is that symptoms from lung cancer often do not appear until the late stages.
“In contrast, early stage lung cancer patients do not have symptoms and can go for months and potentially years without detection. These are the reasons that screening for those at high risk for lung cancer has been recognized as an important method in saving lives,” says Dr. Glassman. “Similar to other cancers, it is obvious that the early detection of lung cancer with a screening CT scan provides for a greater chance to be cured with surgery.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, more than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined. In addition, 90 percent or more of all lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The risk of developing lung cancer for a current smoker with a history of smoking a pack a day for 40 years is about 20 times higher than that of the non-smoker.
The best way to minimize the risk of developing lung cancer is to never start smoking. In addition to McLeod Health Cheraw, lung cancer screenings are also offered at McLeod Regional Medical Center, McLeod Health Dillon, McLeod Health Seacoast and McLeod Health Loris.
For questions about the screening, call 843-320-3328.