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Published on August 14, 2014

lung xray and stethescope

Could a Lung Screening Save Your Life?

In my time at the Avera Cancer Institute in Mitchell, I have seen all kinds of people walk through the door. All with different kinds of cancer, one of the hardest ones to catch early is lung cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer for both men and women.

Overwhelmingly the cause of lung cancer is tobacco products, such as cigarettes, pipes or cigars. The following factors influence the risk of developing lung cancer: the age a person starts smoking; the number of cigarettes a person smokes, and the number of years a person smokes.

Only 20 percent of lung cancer develops in people who have never smoked. In most of those cases it is due to exposure of second hand smoke, asbestos or radon.

Screening for lung cancer has recently become a standard and is covered by some insurance plans. The Avera Cancer Institute centers throughout the Avera system can provide these screening services. Results of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) show that screening current and former heavy smokers with at least three low-dose CT scans reduced their risk of dying from lung cancer by 20 percent.

What is Your Risk for Lung Cancer?

People with a history of cigarette smoking have a higher risk of lung cancer. Based on the NLST findings, I would recommend lung cancer screening for these groups of people:

  • Adults between age 55 and 74 and
  • Current smokers with a smoking history of a least 30 pack years (example: 1 pack per day for 30 years or 2 pack per day for 15 years) or,
  • Former smokers with a least a 30 pack year smoking history who have quit within the last 15 years.

Who Needs A Lung Cancer Screening?

A lung cancer screening is for people who do not have symptoms yet, but are at a high risk. The low-dose CT scan looks for lung nodules that may be early lung cancer. This screening offers the best chance of finding lung cancer in its earliest and most curable stages.

To quit smoking, call the South Dakota Quitline at 866-SD-Quits or 866-737-8487.

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