LUNG CANCER:

Low-dose CT screen­ing

Milwaukee Health - - STAY WELL -

Lung cancer ac­counts for 27 per­cent of all cancer deaths. In 2016, 158,080 Amer­i­cans died from the dis­ease – more than from prostate, breast and col­orec­tal cancer com­bined. Sadly, it also has the low­est five-year sur­vival rate: 18 per­cent, com­pared with prostate (99 per­cent), breast (90 per­cent) and col­orec­tal (65 per­cent).

There are two ways to di­ag­nose lung cancer, ex­plains Dr. Peter Maz­zone, direc­tor of the Lung Cancer Screen­ing Pro­gram at the Cleve­land Clinic in Ohio, and the choice de­pends on whether some­one is show­ing symp­toms. Early signs of the dis­ease, in­clud­ing a cough that doesn’t go away, short­ness of breath and un­ex­plained weight loss, will prompt a physi­cian to per­form a CT scan and/or biopsy. Of­ten by the time pa­tients have symp­toms, they’re at an ad­vanced stage, and their chances for sur­vival are slim.

But there’s an­other tool that’s con­sid­ered the stan­dard of care for at-risk lung cancer pa­tients, much as mam­mog­ra­phy and colonoscopy are rou­tine to di­ag­nose breast and col­orec­tal cancer. The low-dose CT screen­ing for lung cancer is specif­i­cally for peo­ple who are show­ing no symp­toms but who have at least two risk fac­tors. Be­cause it can catch can­cer­ous le­sions at a very early – and very treat­able – stage, this 10-sec­ond test can lit­er­ally be a life­saver.

Smok­ers, peo­ple who’ve smoked within the past 15 years, those who smoked more than “30 pack years” (i.e., a pack a day for 30 years or two a day for 15 years) who are 55 to 77 or 80 yet present no symp­toms qual­ify for this test, which is cov­ered by Medi­care and most in­sur­ance car­ri­ers.

The scan takes less than one minute, but be­fore­hand, the pa­tient is re­quired to have a “shared-de­ci­sion-mak­ing” con­sul­ta­tion with his doc­tor. There are some po­ten­tial risks and down­sides, such as the in­her­ent risks from ad­di­tional tests that might be in­di­cated, but the life-sav­ing and -ex­tend­ing po­ten­tial gen­er­ally far out­weighs them.

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