135,000 thousand Americans will die this year from lung cancer according to health experts. They say as many as 25,000 people could be saved annually through a specific lung cancer screening.
But according to some studies, only five percent of individuals who qualify go through the screening and smokers may not be aware they have a screening option.
Jewel Tucker is a patient and says, “I started when I was 14 years old.”
Last March, Jewel’s doctor recommended for the first time ever that she be screened for lung cancer even though she felt great and had no symptoms.
She says, “April, they sent me a letter saying that they saw a spot on my left lung, and i needed to come in for test, you know.”
That spot turned out to be cancer.
Dr. Irina Veytsman with Oncology Medstar Washington Hospital Center says, “She underwent surgery, but during her surgery they found that she does have lymph nodes affected by her cancer.”
Tucker says, “They took out 12. Eleven was negative. Only one tested positive. They said I was in stage one.”
Medical Oncologist Irina Veytsman says before the availability of low dose CT scans, there was no accurate way to catch lung cancer early. The American Cancer Society says patients who might benefit from low dose CT screening are between 55 and 74 years old, current smokers or those who have quit within the past 15 years, or smokers with a 30-pack-year history.
A pack year is the number of years smoked multiplied by the number of packs per day.
Dr. Veytsman says, “Most of the time we diagnose them with stage one or stage two disease, which is curable.”
Tucker says, “If that doctor had not referred me, I’d be still smoking cigarettes, and by then I’d be in stage four and probably going away from here.”
The low dose CT scan is covered by Medicare and most other insurance companies. Researchers say the one drawback is the scans sometimes find other abnormalities that can lead to additional tests.