By SCOTT COTTOS
Lung cancer is a cold-blooded killer that will sneak up on you.
Many people never find out they have the disease until little can be done.
November has been tapped as Lung Cancer Awareness Month with altering the death toll in mind.
“The main message that we want to get across is that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths across the country and it causes more cancer deaths than prostate cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer combined,” said Dr. Nathan Egbert, medical director of radiology at ProMedica Fostoria Community Hospital. “It’s pretty striking if you think about it. It’s estimated that there are almost nine million people who are current or former smokers who are considered to be at high risk for lung cancer.”
Cancer treatments are most effective when the disease is detected early in its development. What makes lung cancer so deadly is a person may never be physically warned that something needs correcting.
“With lung cancer, by the time you start having symptoms from the cancer, oftentimes it’s too late,” Egbert said. “It usually means that the cancer is either very large or it has spread to other parts of the body. Most early lung cancers don’t cause any symptoms to the patient. That’s why we want to identify that.”
People between ages 55 and 80 who have smoked a great deal and those who are former smokers who stopped in the last 15 years are the most at-risk for having lung cancer.
But science and technology have delivered a new measure of hope.
“We have a new screening test for lung cancer,” Egbert said. “It’s called lung cancer screening CT — some people refer to it as a CAT scan. The benefit is by doing these screenings, we’re able to identify lung cancer at a much earlier stage. If we identify (cancers) when they’re smaller, they’re much more treatable and we can cure patients.
“The alternative is it gets advanced and it can spread to other parts of the body. The idea is to catch it at a much earlier stage so that we can treat it much better.”
The latest CT scanning for detection was developed in the last five years.
“We started doing it here in Fostoria probably two years ago now,” Egbert said. “It works. We have identified a few patients here within the past couple of years. Both have had very small lung cancers that we were able to catch very early and those patients are doing well because we were able to catch them so soon.”
Egbert said FCH has become accredited in computed tomology by the American College of Radiology.
“It was a very rigorous application process to make sure we’re doing the screening exactly how it’s intended,” he said. “Our radiation dose is as low as possible, and it just makes sure our program is exactly how it should be.”
Egbert said the screenings, which take about five minutes and do not require patients to change clothes, are recommended for every year after the first one.
He noted most insurances cover lung screenings.
Egbert recommended people consult their family doctors about having a lung screening done. He said screenings and more information are also available by contacting a ProMedica lung cancer navigator by calling 419-824-8851.