Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the United States. This year alone, 154,000 people are expected to die from the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute — more than from breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.
This public health threat doesn’t have to be so lethal.
The first solution is to follow the advice of doctors around the country, and stop smoking. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer.
But if you are an older current or former smoker, you should also take advantage of the (new) best weapon we have ever had against this deadly disease.
The best source of detection
CT or CAT scans provide older current and former smokers with the first and only cost-effective system proven to significantly reduce lung cancer deaths. Given the number of people impacted by lung cancer each year, these tests can save more lives than any cancer screening test in history.
Insurance companies cover these exams for those between the ages of 55-80 with a history of heavy smoking. Medicare ends this coverage at age 77. If you were a heavy smoker, meet the age specifications and stopped smoking in the last 15 years, you are also covered.
However, unlike breast and colon cancer screening, your primary care physician must approve your lung cancer screening exam during a “shared decision-making visit.”
That sounds simple, but many health care providers are unaware of lung cancer screening exams, or not informed of the benefits of these scans. This is where you have to be your own advocate — or the advocate for a loved one.
Paths to treatment
Talk to your doctor. If he or she does not know about lung cancer screening, the American Lung Association’s “Saved By The Scan” campaign has materials to help guide your conversation with your doctor.
The Lung Cancer Alliance also has extensive lung cancer screening resources to help better understand and explain how lung cancer screening may help.
Radiologyinfo.org can tell you all about these scans — including how to prepare, what to expect and other helpful tips.
Together, we can now push back against the nation’s leading cancer killer. But we have to take action — for ourselves and those we love.
Dianne Dunne, [email protected]