A Closer Look at Lung Cancer Screening

A Closer Look at Lung Cancer Screening

A diagnosis of lung cancer can be overwhelming. Lung cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms until the cancer has spread, making treatment more difficult.

But there’s a screening available with potential to identify lung cancer earlier, when it’s easier to treat. “While lung cancer is still the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, this screening can detect the disease earlier when it’s more likely to be curable,” said Christopher Howell, MD, Holland Hospital Internal Medicine. “If lung cancer is caught before it’s spread, the likelihood of surviving five years or longer significantly improves.”

People who are most likely to benefit from screening include those at higher risk for lung cancer and:

  • Are age 50 to 80 years and in fairly good health*.
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
  • Have at least a 20-pack per year smoking history.
  • Receive smoking cessation counseling if they are current smokers.
  • Involved in informed/shared decision making about the pros and cons of screening with low dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans.

If you feel you may be at higher risk, you can also take this American Cancer Society quiz to learn more.

About Low Dose Computed Tomography Scans

During an LDCT scan, you lie on a table while an X-ray machine uses a low dose of radiation to produce detailed images of your lungs. The scan is painless and only takes a few minutes.

It’s important to talk to your doctor about this test before receiving a referral, as lung cancer screening does pose some risks, including:

  • False-positive results, which can lead to unnecessary follow-up testing or procedures.
  • Finding cases of cancer that may never have caused problems (called overdiagnosis).
  • A greater risk of cancer in individuals who are otherwise healthy if they receive repeated testing and radiation exposure.

“If you’re thinking about getting screened, the first step is to speak with your doctor or health care provider,” Dr. Howell said. “He or she can help you weigh the pros and cons and refer you for screening if it’s determined the test is right for you.”

“Most of all, it’s important to remember that lung cancer screening is not a substitute for quitting smoking,” he added. “Not smoking is still the best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer.” Other ways to lower your chances of developing lunch cancer include: 

  • Avoiding smoke from other people’s cigarettes, cigars and pipes (secondhand smoke). Make sure your home and car are smoke-free, too.
  • Having your home tested for radon.
  • Following health and safety guidelines in the workplace to help you avoid carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).

Want to kick the butts for good? Smoking cessation programs provide a proven path to success. Holland Hospital’s tobacco free coaching is a personalized approach to quitting nicotine and tobacco products. We can help you or someone you love quit for a healthier, longer life!

*Most recent guidelines recommended from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) have widened the scope of eligibility to include people who are 50- to 80-years-old and have a 20-pack per year smoking history.

  • Christopher S. Howell, MD

    Dr. Chris Howell is a board certified internal medicine physician. He earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School and completed residency at the U-M Hospitals & Health Centers.

    Dr. Howell enjoys living in West Michigan with his young family and spending time working on his 100-year-old home. He sees adult patients at Lakeshore Health Partners – Internal Medicine in Holland, MI. where he enjoys helping them set and achieve their lifestyle improvement goals.

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