More than 200,000 cases of lung cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. Doctors say many of those cancers can be caught early if patients are screened in time.
Dr. Kenneth Tolep, a pulmonologist on the medical staff at Lee Health, says they can spot abnormalities on a patient’s lung during a lung screening. “Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States and worldwide. It means that the patient has a malignant tumor within their lung and if caught early, it can be completely cured. That’s our job is to detect lung cancer before it causes symptoms.”
Patients at risk for developing lung cancer are those who smoke or those who recently smoked, especially those with a 30 pack year smoking history. Patients at risk can be screened starting at age 55. “They would be sent for a cat scan. Cat scans would be scheduled on an outpatient basis and the machines are so good right now that when the patient gets their scan, the scan literally takes under one minute,” said Dr. Tolep.
If doctors find anything concerning on the cat scan, they may have the patient get another cat scan or possibly a biopsy. “Our goal is to find asymptomatic stage one lung cancers and surgically remove them. Those people have a 65 percent chance of getting completely cured,” said Dr. Tolep.
Doctors say 95 percent of nodules found on a cat scan are not cancerous and can be caused by lung infections. “Lifestyle modifications are certainly very important, whether or not the person has a cancer. We want to decrease their risk for developing cancer,” said Dr. Tolep.
Doctors recommend patients stop smoking to lower their risk of developing cancer, and to get screened for lung cancer if they are at risk.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.