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Get Screened for Lung Cancer

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When it comes to early detection of lung cancer, low-dose CT (LDCT) lung cancer screenings have proved to be a game-changer. Recently, guidelines for LDCT screenings were updated to include adults as young as 50 with a 20-pack-year smoking history, making this life-saving test even more accessible to a broader group of individuals. 

So, what exactly is a low-dose CT screening? Why are they so important? Do you need one?

One of Archbold's lung cancer experts, Dr. Ed Hall, answers all of your questions and more below. 

Why is Lung Cancer Difficult to Detect? 

Lung cancer is historically known for its late-stage detection, and there are several reasons behind that. First off, your lungs don't have pain detectors, so tumors can grow without causing any pain until they get pretty big or start causing serious problems. Second, the signs of lung cancer, such as persistent coughing or shortness of breath, are often non-specific and can overlap with other common respiratory issues, leading to misdiagnoses or delayed investigations. Also, the stigma associated with smoking has made some folks hesitant to talk about their symptoms or get checked out by a medical professional. 

"Until recently, we didn't have great tools for finding lung cancer early," said Dr. Hall. "But now, with better tests like low-dose CT scans, we're getting better at screening for lung cancer. It's important for folks to know we have a good screening tool because if we catch lung cancer early, they have a better chance of beating it."

What is a Low-Dose CT Scan? 

Low-dose CT is a specialized imaging technique that uses X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of the lungs. It is called "low-dose" because it exposes patients to significantly less radiation than traditional CT scans, making it a safer option for regular screenings. 

"The primary benefit of low-dose CT lies in its ability to detect lung cancer at an early age, treatable stage," said Dr. Hall. "Unlike traditional X-rays, LDCT can identify small lung nodules that may indicate the presence of cancer. Early detection means that treatment can begin promptly when the disease is still localized, increasing the chances of a favorable outcome."

Who Is At Risk for Developing Lung Cancer? 

While age and smoking history may increase your risk, there are other risk factors and symptoms that individuals should be aware of when it comes to lung cancer. 

  • Family History. Individuals with a family history of lung cancer may be at an increased risk, even if they don't meet the smoking criteria. 

    "If anyone in your family has been diagnosed with lung cancer, it's very important that you relay that information to your physician," says Dr. Hall. "Your doctor will be able to assess your risk and determine if an annual lung cancer screening regimen is a good option for you."
  • Occupational Exposure. Some occupations expose individuals to carcinogens, increasing their risk of lung cancer. Discuss any workplace exposure with your primary care physician.
  • Symptoms of Lung Cancer. "Persistent symptoms like coughing, chest pain, or unexplained weight loss should not be ignored," said Dr. Hall. "They could be indicative of underlying lung issues. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek medical evaluation from a primary care physician." 
  • Additional Factors and Conditions. Besides age, smoking history, family history, occupational exposure, and symptoms, there are other factors or conditions that might make someone a candidate for LDCT lung cancer screenings. These include: 
    • Previous Cancer History: Individuals with a history of other cancers, such as head and neck cancer, breast cancer, or bladder cancer, may be at a higher risk of developing lung cancer. 
    • Chronic Lung Diseases: Conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis increase the risk of lung cancer. 
    • Radon Exposure: Radon gas exposure, which can occur in certain geographic areas or in homes with specific characteristics, is a known risk factor for lung cancer. 

Do You Need to Schedule a Low-Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening?

You should talk with your physician about scheduling an annual low-dose CT lung cancer screening if: 

  • You are a current smoker
  • You are a former smoker who has a 20-pack-year history
  • You are a non-smoker who has experienced/currently experiences prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke or cancer-causing agents
  • You have a family history of lung cancer
  • You are 50 years old with a 20-pack-year smoking history

Low-dose CT screenings are available by physician order only at Archbold's Ambulatory Care Center in Thomasville, Archbold Mitchell in Camilla, and the Imaging Center at Archbold Grady in Cairo. 

Talk with your doctor to see if an annual low-dose CT lung cancer screening is right for you. 

Don't have a primary care physician? Click here to find an Archbold primary care physician near you.