Lung Cancer Screening
- Lung cancer screening allows people to be checked for early signs of lung cancer before the development of any symptoms.
- Since lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related death worldwide and is the second leading cause of cancer in the United States, identifying early, potentially curable lung cancer is of great benefit.
- In the United States, it is estimated that in 2012 there will be a quarter of 1 million new lung cancers identified and over 160,000 lung cancer related deaths.
Who should be screened?
- Screening of the general population has not been shown to significantly alter the course of lung cancer.
- There is evidence suggesting that high risk individuals benefit from screening.
- Smokers: The most significant cause of lung cancer is cigarette smoking and tobacco use.
- Tobacco smoke has been shown to contain over 4000 chemical compounds which are cancer-causing.
- The risk of lung cancer in individuals who smoke begins to increase once that individual has smoked for 10 pack years. A pack year refers to smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. Therefore, someone who smokes two packs a day will reach 10 pack years in five years and someone who smokes one half pack per day needs 20 years to reach 10 pack years.
- While the risk of lung cancer increases at 10 pack years, it significantly increases at 30 pack years.
- Exposure to Second Hand Smoke: Individuals who inhale cigarette smoke from others, referred to as passive smoking, are also at risk although the risk is not as high as with the cigarette smoker themselves.
- It is estimated that a non-smoker who lives with a smoker has an increased risk of lung cancer of almost 25% over the general population.
- It is been estimated that the risk of lung cancer in a cigarette smoker is 25 times higher than a non-smoker and five times higher in pipe and cigar smokers.
- Exposure to Asbestos
- Other factors which increase the risk of lung cancer and would place an individual in a high-risk category include exposure to asbestos fibers.
- Asbestos workers who do not smoke have a fivefold increased risk compared to the general population and asbestos workers who smoke increased their risk of developing lung cancer by 50%-90%.
- Exposure to Radon Gas
- A naturally occurring chemically inert gas that is caused by the natural decay of uranium and is found in the ground has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer.
How is lung cancer screening performed?
- In the past, screening was performed with chest x-rays.
- However, since the goal in screening is to find lung cancers when they are still potentially curable, chest x-rays have not been shown to be particularly effective.
- CT scans of the chest, and more recently low dose CT scans have been shown to be effective in identifying early, potentially curable lung cancers in high risk individuals.
- A low-dose CT scan of the chest requires that an individual lie on a table which slides into a doughnut shaped CT scanner which takes multiple x-ray pictures of your chest.
- The procedure is completely painless and only requires several minutes.
- The average radiation dose received from a low-dose CT scan is 1.5 mSv (by comparison, high mileage airplane flyers receive 6-8 mSv and individuals living at high altitude such as Denver Colorado received 6 mSv.
What might be found on the CT scan?
The CT scan provides the ability to identify small nodules or masses in the lung. If these are particularly suspicious for malignancy, further evaluation will be recommended. If they are suggestive of nonmalignant processes, then routine follow-up will be recommended. If the CT scan is completely normal and the individual remains at high risk, then routine follow-up will be recommended. Click here to find out more information about our Comprehensive Lung Nodule Care.
How do I get a Lung Cancer Screening CT Scan?
- At White Plains Hospital, the Division of Thoracic Surgery along with the Department of Radiology, participates in the International Early Lung Cancer Action Project (I-ELCAP) which is currently attempting to evaluate the role of CT scans of the chest in screening for lung cancer.
- The study is currently open to individuals who are at least 50 years of age, have smoked for 20 pack years, and are either currently smoking or have stopped smoking within the last 20 years.
If you believe you may belong to a high-risk group or you know someone who may belong to a high-risk group and seek more information, the group of board-certified thoracic surgeons here at White Plains hospital are available to answer all of your questions.
To speak to someone about our Lung Cancer Screening Program please call Diana Zondorak, Ph.D., Clinical Research Coordinator at (914) 681-2365 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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