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There are a lot of important things to know about lung cancer, but one of the most important may be what you’ll read right here about lung cancer screenings. Lung cancer screenings are important to know about because the key to positive outcomes in treating lung cancer is early detection and diagnosis.
One of the reasons that lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. for both men and women is because it often has no symptoms until it’s already advanced in stage. Lung cancer screening aims to change this, finding the disease at an earlier stage when treatment is more effective.
What Is a Lung Cancer Screening?
The only proven test for lung cancer screenings is low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). In LDCT, a specific type of X-ray machine scans your body and uses a low dose of radiation to create high-quality images of your lungs. Research has shown that among heavy smokers, LDCT can reduce the risk of losing their lives to lung cancer.
But because this type of screening can detect lung abnormalities that are not cancer and may prompt additional testing or procedures, yearly lung cancer screening is typically only recommended for those at a high risk of lung cancer, which is people ages 50 to 80 with a history of 20 years of smoking.
If your doctor recommends lung cancer screening, discuss the pros and cons for you, and understand what to expect before, during and after the screening.
What to Expect During the Screening
LDCT is a painless, noninvasive imaging test. In the test, an X-ray machine scans your body in a spiral path. This machine is linked to a computer, which processes the scanned information and creates a series of detailed images. The amount of radiation to which you’re exposed is up to 90 percent less than with a conventional CT scan of the chest.
The machine used for LDCT typically looks like a large donut with a short middle section. You’ll lie on a table that slides in and out with your head and legs exposed. A technologist will help you get into the right position on the table — usually lying flat on your back.
Once you’re in position, the table slides through the opening quickly to find a starting point for the scan. Then the table slides through a second time as the scan is performed. During this scanning process, any motion— even breathing —could blur the image. You’ll need to hold your breath for five to 10 seconds.
You Can Lower Your Risks of Lung Cancer by Not Smoking
If you smoke, your risk of getting lung cancer is 20 times higher. Just a few months after you quit your lung functions improve, and after ten years your risk of dying from lung cancer has fallen by half. If you need help quitting smoking, talk with your primary care physician (PCP). Your doctor can connect you to many resources including cessation programs, workshops, support groups and resources to help you quit.
Secondhand Smoke Raises Lung Cancer Risks
Breathing smoke from someone else’s tobacco causes up to 7,000 lung cancer deaths each year. It’s especially important to keep kids away from secondhand smoke.
Toxins in the Workplace Can Cause Lung Cancer
Substances such as asbestos, arsenic, diesel fumes, soot, uranium, coal products and silica can raise your lung cancer risk and your risk further increases if you smoke. If you’ve been exposed to these substances, ask your doctor if you need to get checked for lung cancer.
Previous Radiation Therapy Can Raise Lung Cancer Risk
Radiation therapy to the chest is used to treat women after a mastectomy for breast cancer and for other conditions such as Hodgkin disease. If you’ve had this therapy, it’s important you don’t smoke since that can raise your risks even more.
Radon Can Cause Lung Cancer
Radon is a radioactive gas that happens naturally in the environment. It’s not usually dangerous outdoors, but inside it can become concentrated. People who live in homes or work in buildings with high levels of radon are more likely to get lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., and among non-smokers, it’s the leading cause.
It’s easy to test for radon in your home, and contractors can seal areas and lower radon to safe levels.
A Persistent Cough Should Signal a Doctor Visit
A cough that doesn’t go away is a common symptom of lung cancer. People with this disease may also have:
- Blood or rust-colored sputum when they cough
- Chest pain that gets worse with coughing or laughing
- Frequent lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Tiredness or weakness
- Weight loss
Advanced Lung Cancer Can Cause Different Symptoms
Once lung cancer spreads, the symptoms can seem unrelated to your lungs. People with advanced lung cancer may have:
- Balance problems
- Bone pain in their back or hips
- Drooping or weakness in one eyelid, along with smaller pupil in the same eye
- Headache or dizziness
- Swelling in the face, neck, arms and upper chest
In most cases, these symptoms come from something other than lung cancer. Still, it’s important to see your doctor right away if you have any of them.
Lung Cancer Screening Can Save Your Life
If you have high risks for getting lung cancer, ask your doctor about having a screening test called low-dose CT scan, or LDCT. Studies show that this screening test can save lives.
With a focus on prevention and early treatment of disease, experts at AdventHealth can guide you with recommendations on keeping your lungs healthy. If you think you might be at risk for having lung cancer, come to our experts for guidance and support.
How to Take Action:
At AdventHealth Medical Group Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at Tavares, Jonathan Schroeder, DO is accepting new patients. Dr. Schroeder is a board-certified pulmonary, critical care and internal medicine physician. He treats patients diagnosed with diseases that affect their lungs and lung health. Low Dose CT scans have been a landmark development in early detection of lung cancer, and we provide that service here at AdventHealth Waterman. To book an appointment with Dr. Schroeder, visit this page or call the office at Call352-742-4447.
We have a specialized team of cancer care navigators who specialize in helping lung cancer patients. Patients who are not covered by insurance can receive a Low Dose CT Screening for $99 at our campus. If your scan has an abnormal finding, you can be referred to our lung nodule clinic to get involved with a pulmonologist early. Our cancer care team is here to support you and your family, address your concerns, answer your questions, schedule appointments, and more, by being there for you through it all.