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Lung Cancer Screening: January 21, 2019

These images show the importance of having a lung screening. “Our goal is to try to find lung cancer earlier, and the best way to do that is to find them when they are asymptomatic, and the only way to do that is with a screening,” explained Dr. Keith Miller, a radiation oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Health.

This screening can detect lung cancer in the early stages—giving patients a better chance to fight cancer.

“The screening is a quick cat scan. No needles, no injections, no pain. It’s what’s called a low radiation cat scan, so it’s a quicker, more limited cat scan,” said Dr. Miller.

Doctors recommend patients who are considered high risk start the screening at age 55. Patients are high risk if they have a 30 pack-year smoking history—which means one pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years.

The once a year screening is important even if patients are now non-smokers. “The risk never drops off completely. The longer you go without smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer drops off over time, but never to the point of a non-smoker,” he said.

The earlier patients are diagnosed, the better their outcome. “The cure rate with a stage four maybe one or two percent, whereas a stage three maybe 10 to 20 percent, but a stage one may be as high as 70, 75 percent. So it just puts the odds in our favor,” Dr. Miller said.

Lung cancer symptoms can include a persistent cough, chest pain, and coughing up blood. Early screenings can benefit patients before they start showing symptoms of lung cancer.

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