Doctors are urging people at higher risk for lung cancer to get screened every year after age 55.
Dr. Samuel Copeland told Citizens Medical Center’s board members that a new campaign encouraging screenings can save lives in the community.
Lung cancer is the most common cancer affecting both men and women, accounting for an estimated 234,030 new cases in 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 9 out of every 10 people with lung cancer die of the disease because it is found after it has spread.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendation is that people with no symptoms, between the ages of 55 and 80, with a history of heavy tobacco smoking, should get screened annually.
Current smokers and those who have quit within the past 15 years meet the criteria.
Copeland, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist hired by Citizens Medical Center in July, said low-dose computerized tomography or a CT scan can dramatically improve lung cancer survival rates by finding the disease earlier.
He told the board that in a national trial between standard chest X-rays and CT, researchers found that low-dose CT scans could reduce lung cancer mortality by 20 percent.
Hospital officials said Copeland is the only physician in the area performing endobronchial ultrasound and indwelling pleural catheter procedures.
Mike Olson, chief executive officer of the county hospital, said most private insurers and Medicare covers the cost of lung cancer screenings.
“I think this is something we need to do as the area’s leading cancer-care provider,” Olson said.