Lung Cancer Screenings: A 15-Second Test Can Deliver Peace of Mind
Because lung cancer is a serious diagnosis that can be life-threatening, catching it early could make all the difference.
That’s why Avera offers low-dose CT lung cancer screenings at many of its locations – to find small growths of cancer, commonly called nodules, in the lung before they can grow and spread.
The annual screening is also one that gives peace of mind to people who may worry about lung cancer – the top cause of cancer deaths among both men and women in the U.S.
Kay Long of Mitchell, S.D., was successful in her efforts to quit smoking. Yet she knows that her 30 years of smoking still place her at increased risk for lung cancer.
“There’s always that question in your mind, so this screening offered that reassurance,” Long said. She also knows of people for whom the screening detected suspicious spots in the lungs. “Maybe if it will help someone catch cancer earlier and get it treated, it can make a difference.”
Similarly, as a long-time smoker, Brenda Bohn of Mitchell is pleased to have the annual screenings available to her. “It’s a wonderful relief to know that I’m doing OK – lung cancer is not something to fool around with.” The screening is easy and convenient, too. “I was done in about eight minutes – there’s nothing to it.”
Having known others who were diagnosed with lung cancer, Bohn knows this screening can save lives. “Everyone has a Pap and a mammo every year, I do all that and have a lung screening too,” she said.
Finding Better Tests and Treatment
Catching lung cancer early increases the possibility of successful treatment. Research is constantly advancing toward finding better ways to effectively treat this cancer, including the SPRING trial at Avera in which patients are given a three-drug protocol that involves immunotherapy and targeted therapies.
Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of non-small cell lung cancer cases are detected in an advanced stage, and for these advanced stage cancer, five-year survival is less than 5 percent.
Results of the National Lung Screening Trial showed that screening current and former smokers with low-dose CT scans reduced their risk of dying from lung cancer by 20 percent.
During a low-dose CT scan, the patient lies on a table that passes through the center of the CT scanner. The procedure is painless and can be performed with a single short breath hold and takes less than 15 seconds.
Radiation from a low-dose CT scan can be up to 90 percent less than the dose from a standard chest CT. The benefit of finding and treating early lung cancer far outweighs the risk. The amount of radiation exposure from a low-dose CT scan is about the same as a person would receive from background radiation (such as sun exposure) over a period of one year.
Starting the Process
Getting a lung screening starts with a conversation with your primary care provider. If your provider agrees that you fit within screening guidelines, he or she can schedule the test for you at an Avera location near you. This service is offered at Avera Cancer Institute centers in Sioux Falls, Mitchell, Aberdeen and Pierre, and other Avera locations.
Your primary care provider can also offer resources to help you quit smoking.
Medicare and insurance plans often cover this service for people who qualify. Check with your insurance agency to verify your coverage.