It’s probably no coincidence that National Women’s Lung Health Week (May 12-18, 2019) kicks off on Mother’s Day. According to the American Lung Association, over the past 41 years the rate of women being diagnosed with the disease has increased by 87 percent.
Women or men who smoke are at most risk for developing lung cancer, but people who have never smoked also can be diagnosed with lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes smoked. If you quit smoking – even after many years of smoking – you can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer.
During National Women’s Lung Health Week, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) is highlighting low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). Heavy, long-term smokers, current smokers, or people with a family history of lung cancer have lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) available at:
Why Lung Cancer Screening is Important
Lung cancer often has no symptoms. Because of this, it can spread outside of the lungs before it is detected. By then, the cancer may be advanced which can affect treatment outcomes for the patient.
“It’s very important to get screened even if you don’t have symptoms,” said Mary Sterling, Director of Imaging Services for YRMC. “The benefit of early detection is finding a cancer before it has a chance to spread. The earlier cancer is detected, the more likely it is treatable.”
Should You be Screened for Lung Cancer?
LDCT is part of YRMC’s Lung Cancer Screening and Care Program. To be eligible for the Medicare-sponsored screening you must be:
- Between the ages of 55-77
- Free of cancer symptoms
- Either currently smoking or a past smoker who quit 15 years ago or less
- A heavy smoker averaging one pack per day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years
People are encouraged to talk with their primary care providers to determine if they are eligible for the screening program.
“The patient and healthcare provider will have a discussion about the patient’s smoking history and find out if they have any symptoms,” Sterling said. “They’ll also talk about smoking cessation if the patient is still smoking.”
A Team Approach
YRMC’s Lung Cancer Screening and Care Program uses a team approach that draws on the skills of primary care providers, pulmonologists, procedural pulmonologists, radiologists and a cardiothoracic surgeon.
The program also includes a patient navigator whose job is to serve as a patient contact. This professional answers questions about program eligibility and directs patients to the appropriate provider if specific care is required. The patient navigator also can help people determine if their current insurance plan covers the screening or assist people who would like to undergo the exam using the self-pay option YRMC offers.
A Prevention Plan
“The program is not a one-time screening test,” said Sterling. “Annual follow-up screening is recommended for patients whose initial screenings do not show signs of lung cancer.”
If a patient’s LDCT findings show signs of lung cancer, a follow-up scan will be scheduled. A biopsy may also be recommended, in which case the patient would be referred to a procedural pulmonologist or a radiologist, depending on the location of the lung nodule. Should the patient need surgery, the Lung Cancer Screening and Care Program team also includes a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Learn More About LDCT
For more information about LDCT, please contact your primary care provider or the Lung Cancer Screening and Care Program Patient Navigator at (928) 771-5454.
Need help giving up smoking? Contact the ASHLine, Arizona Smokers’ Helpline (1-800-556-6222), for free assistance.
Help spread the word about lung cancer screening by sharing this YRMC HealthConnect article with your social media friends.