Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Doctors Are in; Lung Cancer Screenings Can Be Life-Savers, Especially for Longtime Smokers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Doctors Are in; Lung Cancer Screenings Can Be Life-Savers, Especially for Longtime Smokers

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr. William Taylor Palfrey & Dr. Mariam Louis

In the world of cancer, there is a relatively new and underutilized screening test on the block that you may be missing out on. If you are a smoker or a former smoker, you may benefit from screening for lung cancer.

Lung cancer is estimated to affect over 200,000 new patients every year in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. Lung cancer causes more deaths than any other form of cancer in the U.S. and worldwide.

As a matter of fact, lung cancer is responsible for more deaths each year than breast, colorectal and prostate cancers combined. Lung cancer can grow silently, without symptoms, and by the time most patients present to their doctors, the cancer is already in an advanced stage and curative treatment becomes nearly impossible.

Cigarette smoking is responsible for almost 90 percent of all lung cancers. The risk of developing lung cancer in a current smoker who has smoked one pack a day for 40 years (or two packs a day for 20 years) is about 20 times higher than the risk for a non-smoker.

The best way to avoid lung cancer is to not smoke or, if you are a current smoker, to quit smoking. Indeed, studies have shown that smokers who quit smoking for more than 15 years decrease their risk of lung cancer by 80-90 percent compared to those who continue to smoke.

In addition to not smoking or quitting smoking, lung cancer screening can also decrease the risk of dying from lung cancer. The surest way for cancer to be treated effectively is when it is detected and addressed earlier in its course, before the disease inevitably spreads to nearby tissues, lymph nodes and distant organs. Screening tests can help in this way.

The National Lung Screening Trial kicked off in 2002 and looked at more than 50,000 patients over seven years. Investigators found that using CT (computed tomography or CAT scans) to look for lung cancer led to improved detection rates and lowered the risk of dying from lung cancer by 15-20 percent. The results were published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in 2011. …

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