Did you know that lung cancer claims more lives every year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined? Today is World Lung Cancer Day, and in observation of this event, Steward Health Care is encouraging our patients to learn more about the early signs of lung cancer and share concerns with their physicians.
“World Lung Cancer Day is a good opportunity for patients to become more familiar with the signs and symptoms of lung cancer,” said Peter LaCamera, MD, a Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine specialist with Steward Health Care. “Knowing these signs, as well as undergoing lung cancer screening, especially for high-risk patients, can help to save lives.”
Early symptoms of lung cancer may include a cough, and/or change in phlegm. Lung cancer screening uses state-of-the-art, low-dose CT to take pictures of the lungs to detect potentially treatable lung cancers. The goal is to identify signs of the disease before any symptoms might occur and while the cancer is curable in patients who are at high risk. The diagnostic approach is modeled after mammography, which has been successful in detecting breast cancer. Annual lung cancer screening by low-dose CT has been proven to provide a 20% reduction in lung cancer deaths in high-risk patients.
Thanks to an update earlier this year by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), lung cancer screening is now available to even more people than before. The updated recommendations for low-dose CT screening include patients who:
- Are a current smoker or have quit smoking within the past 15 years
- Are between the ages of 50-77 (Private Insurances 50-80)
- Have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer
- Have a tobacco smoking history of at least 20 pack-years (one pack-year = smoking one pack per day for one year; one pack = 20 cigarettes)
- Participate in a pre-screening counseling visit
- See more at: Lung Cancer Screening Coverage (medicare.gov)
While smoking is a common risk factor of lung cancer, environmental factors and genetics are also linked to this disease. Though anyone can develop lung cancer and it remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society, the number of new lung cases continues to decrease as does the annual number of deaths attributed to lung cancer. These achievements are due to a reduction in the number of people smoking, and advances in the early detection and treatment of the disease.
“We encourage patients who are at risk for lung cancer and who quality for low-dose CT screening to have a conversation with their primary care physician or pulmonologist about this important option,” said Dr. LaCamera.
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