November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer kills more people annually than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined. In 2018, the American Cancer Society expects 234,030 new cases of lung cancer nationally and 500 new cases in North Dakota. Men are diagnosed more often with lung cancer than women, but lung cancer in women is on a significant rise. Every five minutes, a woman in the U.S. is told she has lung cancer, yet only 3 percent of women surveyed cite lung cancer as a top-of-mind health concern.
The most important part of lung cancer prognosis is at what stage or how early the lung cancer is diagnosed. Only 16 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed at an early-stage, which is when a cure is possible with surgery. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 18.6 percent compared to 64.5 percent for colorectal cancer, 89.6 percent for breast cancer, and 98.2 percent for prostate cancer. Survival rates are directly linked to screening and early diagnosis. Compared to a non-smoker, those who smoke increase their risk of lung cancer by 15 to 30 times. Smoking is directly attributable to 80 percent of deaths from lung cancer.
Lung cancer screening is the newest cancer screening in the U.S., having been available since 2015. Despite the availability, the rates remain extremely low for lung cancer screening. For 2017, the national rate for lung cancer screening was only 4 percent. Patients who are screened and found to be eligible for Lung Cancer Screening, complete a computerized tomography (CT) of the chest with 90 percent less radiation compared to conventional chest CT. The purpose of this screening examination is to decrease lung cancer mortality by identifying early-stage lung cancers.
Lung cancer screening by Low Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) has been available at Trinity Health since February 2017. To be considered eligible, a patient must be:
- Between the ages of 55 and 77
- Have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history. A pack-year is calculated by multiplying the number of years smoked by the number of packs-per-day smoked
- If a former smoker, must have quit within the past 15 years
If you feel that you may be a candidate for LDCT, you must be seen by a provider in Trinity’s Pulmonology department or your primary care provider. A decision will be made between you and the provider if you are a candidate for LCS. The LDCT scan will then be completed and you will receive a letter in about two weeks with the results.
Sixty-two percent of the general population believe that not enough is being done to raise awareness for lung cancer. Be part of the initiative, called Lung Force, led by the American Lung Association to unite everyone to stand together against lung cancer. Visit lung.org/our-initiatives/lung-force/for more information.
For more information regarding lung cancer screening at Trinity Health, please go to our website (trinityhealth.org/services/lungspulmonology/).
If you would like to schedule an appointment for lung cancer screening, please call the Pulmonary Department at 857-5741 or your primary care provider. Trinity’s Pulmonology team, which includes Jeffrey Verhey, MD; Heidi Bender, DNP, APRN, FNP-C; and Dwight Remington, DNP, FNP-C, is based at Health Center – East, Suite 203, 20 Burdick Expressway W, Minot.