Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the U.S. Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cancer Institute recently released a report about an effective tool an that can detect lung cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most curable, a low-dose CT screening.
According to the report, low-dose CT screening is available to some people ages 55 to 80 with a history of smoking. AHN typically performs about 2,000 such screenings each year, but clinicians believe many more Western Pennsylvanians who could benefit from the screenings don’t take advantage.
This year, through September, AHN has screened more than 1,500 people for lung cancer. Eighteen lung cancers were detected, and a few other cancers as well.
“Those people have a good shot at a cure for their cancer, because it was detected at an early stage,” said Jeffrey Mueller, MD, system vice chairman, Department of Radiology and Division director, Cardiothoracic Imaging, AHN. “Too often, by the time lung cancer causes symptoms, it is at a later stage, and far less likely to be treatable. The overall five-year survival rate for lung cancer is only about 20 percent without screening.”
“We’re happy that so many people have taken advantage of low-dose CT screening, but we believe there are many more western Pennsylvanians who could benefit,” Mueller said. “In some Mon Valley communities, for example, 30 to 40 percent of adults smoke, compared to a 15 percent average nationwide.
“It’s never too late for longtime smokers to quit,” Dr. Mueller added. “Smokers who sign up for lung cancer screening will be provided with information on smoking cessation programs, and others who are interested can speak to their primary care provider about tools that can help them stop smoking.”
The test is non-invasive and painless, and takes just minutes. Insurances typically cover it, though the extent of coverage may vary by plan. Patients need to be referred for the test by a primary care provider.