Lung cancer is a killer. And it is common. As per the American Cancer Society, in 2018 in Montana, more than 800 new cases are expected. More than 50 percent of patients have the potential to die from their disease.
Unfortunately, many cases are diagnosed at late stages. Only 18.1 percent are detected early — when it has not spread. This is very important: Survival is better. Fifty-six percent of people will be alive at five years if lung cancer is found at an early stage when it is potentially curable, as compared with only 5 percent when the disease has already disseminated.
But, what can we do about it? First, prevention. The most efficient way is to avoid tobacco products. There is something to be done in Montana. For example, in high schoolers, the prevalence of smoking is 13.1 percent as compared with U.S. prevalence of 10.8 percent.
Second, early detection. Meet Low-Dose CT Scan. A specialized test that uses X-rays to get a detailed picture of your lungs. Who should have it? Ages 55-80 heavy smokers — for example, somebody who has smoked one pack per day for 30 years — and even former smokers who have quit within the past 15 years. A yearly scan is recommended.
As an oncologist, I support every step taken to catch this disease sooner, when it is still curable. I am joining the American Lung Association to ask smokers to take a lung cancer screening eligibility quiz at SavedByTheScan.org. It saves lives.