November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, an excellent time for current and past smokers to check out Lung Cancer Screening and Care at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC).
The centerpiece of YRMC’s program is low-dose computed tomography (LDCT), which produces detailed images of the chest and lungs to detect lung cancer early, when it’s most treatable. LDCT scans also use about one-fifth the dose of radiation as compared to a standard CT scan.
Need more motivation? Here are five reasons to join in this lifesaving program.
- Reason 1: More people (maybe you) are qualifying for LDCT thanks to recent changes in eligibility.
Earlier this year, the United States Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) updated its recommendations for who should undergo LDCT. The new recommendations include people who are:
- Ages 50 – 80
- Heavy smokers (one pack a day for 20 years or the equivalent)
- Current smokers or smokers who have quit in the last 15 years
- Free of any lung cancer symptoms
“Dropping the qualifying age to 50-years-old from 55, and lowering the pack-per-day eligibility to 20 years from 30 years, makes more people eligible for lung cancer screening,” says Jennifer Harvey, RN, Nurse Navigator, Lung Cancer Screening and Care at YRMC.
Arizona’s Medicaid – the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) – quickly adopted the new LDCT coverage recommendations. The medical community is hopeful that Medicare and private insurance carriers will implement the USPSTF’s recommendations in early 2022.
“In the meantime, people between the ages of 50 and 55 who want to be screened, should speak to their health insurance carriers about coverage,” Harvey says.
- Reason 2: Lung Cancer Screening and Care at YRMC is a dedicated healthcare partner.
That partnership begins by ensuring you qualify for LDCT. Additionally, our nurse navigator is available to answer questions about LDCT, lung health, and assist with smoking cessation programs.
Harvey reaches out to every Lung Cancer Screening and Care participant to remind them of their annual LDCT screening. That year-to-year continuity is an important aspect of Lung Cancer Screening and Care.
“LDCT screening is not a one and done,” Harvey explains. “If you don’t have any signs of lung cancer after your first screening, you will be screened annually. I suggest that people think of their LDCT as they would a mammogram or colonoscopy. It’s a screening that you need even – and especially – if you have no symptoms.”
If a patient’s LDCT findings are suspicious, a follow-up scan may be scheduled. The Lung Cancer Screening and Care team may also recommend a biopsy, in which case the patient would be referred to a procedural pulmonologist or a radiologist. If surgery is needed, the Lung Cancer Screening and Care team also includes a cardiothoracic surgeon.
- Reason 3: LDCT not only detects lung cancer early, but it can discover other potentially life-threatening illnesses before you’re experiencing symptoms.
LDCT scans include a large part of the body. This means in addition to lung cancer, LDCT can also detect chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder (COPD) and heart disease, for example.
“Lung Cancer Screening and Care can be a benefit to your health in so many ways,” Harvey says. “If you think you qualify for the program, speak to your healthcare provider.”
- Reason 4: If you’re a longtime smoker who wants to quit, you’ll receive support from Lung Cancer Screening and Care.
First, let’s highlight a few of the health benefits of giving up smoking:
- One year after quitting smoking, a person’s risk for coronary heart disease decreases 50%.
- After 10 years, a person’s chances of developing lung cancer and dying from it are cut in half compared to someone who continues smoking.
“It’s exciting how the body heals itself after giving up smoking,” Harvey says. “After someone quits, it’s recommended that they continue annual lung screening for at least 15 years. After that, their chances of developing lung cancer drops significantly.”
Next, how do you get help quitting? While in-person smoking cessation classes have been temporarily suspended during the pandemic, the Arizona ASHLine sponsors Quit Coaching. This is a free, virtual program that supports and encourages people as they give up tobacco.
- Reason 5: When lung cancer is detected early through LDCT, cure is possible.
“If lung cancer is found early, there’s an 80 percent chance of cure,” Harvey says. “That’s an amazing and hopeful statistic.”
Want to learn more? Speak to your healthcare provider or contact Lung Cancer Screening and Care at (928) 771-5454.