Lung Cancer screening


by Mary Rains

Mille Lacs Health System

Every day in the US, an average of 425 people die from lung cancer.  It’s the leading cause of cancer death in the US for males and females, more than colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers combined. Catching it early improves survival rates. Screening may reduce the need for chemo or radiation, and offers a chance for minimal surgery. In November, the nation observes National Lung Cancer Awareness and it’s a good time to think about not only quitting your habit but getting tested to see if you have lung cancer.

People ages 55 to 77 years old who currently smoke and who have smoked a pack a day for 30 years, and those who have a family history of lung cancer, are especially at risk. Additionally, those with lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or COPD, have elevated risks. Or, if you have worked with such known carcinogens as asbestos, arsenic, nickel or chromium, you have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Screening can save lives. The best and easiest way to screen is with a low-dose CT scan. A major study found many benefits to using this type of test. It not only screens high-risk patients and reduces the number of deaths from lung cancer by 20%, but it also helps locate small cancers earlier than traditional x-rays.  You don’t need contrast dye injected into your bloodstream and the radiation dose is lower than regular CT scans.

Mille Lacs Health System has a new low-dose CT scan available for patients. Not only does it produce better images to help detect many abnormalities, but it also uses up to 90 percent less ionizing radiation than a conventional chest CT scan. If you are interested in learning more about this test, visit with your medical provider, who will explain more about it and tell you if you qualify. If so, Medicare will pay for the test. If you have other insurance, call your insurer to ask how you can get this valuable test.