Lung Cancer Screening Offers Early Disease Detection
It’s enough to make your blood run cold and your heart skip a beat. Nobody wants to hear the dreaded “C” word — cancer — during a visit with their physician. As medicine continues to progress, patients are seeing screening procedures improve, more treatment options become available and survival rates increase.
Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in both men and women, behind prostate cancer and breast cancer, respectively. It ranks number one in the number of cancer deaths, however, accounting for one in four cancer deaths, which is more than prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer combined.
In years past, a lung cancer diagnosis was particularly devastating, as this type of cancer was often only discovered at an advanced, non-curable stage. Texas Health Resources is working to detect lung cancer in earlier, more treatable stages by offering low-dose computerized tomography at Texas Health hospitals in Arlington, Dallas and Ft. Worth. Ft. Worth’s screening program has been in operation since 2013, while Dallas and Arlington began offering screenings in 2015.
Cristy LePori, thoracic oncology navigator at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Ft. Worth, explained why this relatively new screening is so important.
“Screening for breast, colon, prostate and skin cancers has been offered to patients for many years, but more people die of lung cancer every year,” she said. “By offering annual low-dose CT lung screening to high-risk patients, we hope to detect the cancer at an earlier stage when the cancer is treatable and there is a chance of cure.
“Being able to diagnose cancer at an early stage significantly decreases the mortality rate. Patients that are diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer are not curable. We can treat the cancer and try to improve the quality and quantity of their life, but the cancer is not curable.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, when lung cancer is identified early is crucial, as the risk of death decreases by 20 percent. Unfortunately, only 16 percent of cases are currently discovered in the early stages.
Mahin Masoumalizadeh, computerized tomography team leader at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, said early screening for lung cancer is an important weapon in the fight against this deadly disease.
“Early detection of cancer is one of the best ways to increase a patient’s chance of survival,” he said. “Low-dose CT is a non-invasive procedure which only takes a few minutes to complete, so it’s easy and pain-free. Lung cancer screening is a game-changer for those at risk, provides a better chance of survival and gives peace of mind for patients to know that their lungs are clear.”
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced in 2015 that Medicare will cover annual low-dose CT lung cancer screening for beneficiaries who receive a written order from a physician or qualified non-physician practitioner and fit the following high-risk criteria:
- 55-77 years old
- Asymptomatic of lung cancer
- Current smoker or former smoker who quit within the last 15 years
- Tobacco history of at least 30 pack years (one pack year = smoking one pack or 20 cigarettes per day for one year)
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas’ lung cancer program coordinator Ben Garcia said that in addition to screening, high-risk individuals should work to reduce their risk factors.
“Low-dose CT scans are more reliable in finding lung tumors earlier than chest X-rays and allow for lung tumors to be found earlier,” he said. “However, it is important to take control of your own health. Smoking cessation is so important for current smokers and it’s also important for those who have previously quit to remain tobacco-free. Current smokers can call 800-QUIT-NOW for help quitting or we also offer smoking cessation classes here locally.”
For more information about lung cancer screening programs at Texas Health facilities, visit:
- Arlington: https://www.texashealth.org/arlington/Pages/Services/Cancer/Lung-Cancer.aspx
- Ft. Worth: https://www.texashealth.org/fortworth/Pages/Services/Imaging/Low-Dose-CT-Lung-Screening.aspx
- Dallas: https://www.texashealth.org/dallas/Pages/Services/Cancer/Lung-Cancer-Program.aspx
To search for a Live Tobacco Free class at your closest Texas Health facility, search the Classes & Events page.