It’s no secret: A lung cancer diagnosis sounds both scary and shocking given the cancer’s reputation as a leading threat for men and women. But a new screening test is replacing fear with hope for millions at high risk for lung cancer. A simple CT scan is helping to detect lung cancer early so, like mammography, it can save lives.
This test is now available through the new Lung Health Screening Program at Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton.
“In the past, no one talked about lung cancer. They didn’t want to know if they had it,” explains James Meyer, MD, Medical Director of the Lung Health Screening Program. “But the lung cancer screening test is completely changing the perception of lung cancer. Although there have always been treatment options, we couldn’t catch it early enough for them to be effective. Now we can. The key is to start talking about lung cancer and taking the step to get screened.”
Quick Test = Early Detection
Platte Valley’s Lung Health Screening Program is available to those considered at high risk for lung cancer. This includes men and women ages 55 to 77 who:
• Smoked the equivalent of one pack a day for 30 years (or two packs a day for 15 years)
• Currently smoke or have smoked in the last 15 years
The screening itself involves a low-dose CT scan of the chest. This simple, painless test takes detailed pictures of the lungs and involves minimal amounts of radiation, similar to that of a mammogram. Approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, lung cancer screening is also covered by most insurance companies.
“The lung cancer screening test is proven to be safe and is the single best way to detect lung cancer in its early stages,” explains Rikki Landers, RN, Manager of the Lung Health Screening Program. “It’s a game changer.”
Expert care and Support
People at high risk for lung cancer, or loved ones on their behalf, can make a screening appointment at Platte Valley’s Lung Health Clinic. They can also ask their doctor for a referral.
At the appointment, patients receive information and counseling before getting screened. The screening test, which takes about a half hour, is then conducted at the medical center. If a suspicious nodule or growth on the lungs is found, patients will be called within 24–48 hours. The program’s nurse navigator then helps guide patients through the next steps toward possible diagnosis and treatment options.
“It’s important to know that most lung nodules are completely benign, and patients with these nodules simply return in a year for routine screening,” says Landers. “This test is not something to be frightened of. It’s a way of taking control. For years, I treated patients with stage 3 or 4 lung cancer with chemotherapy and always felt I was chasing their disease. Now, to be able to treat patients in early stages of lung cancer—or better yet, not treat them at all with chemotherapy—is amazing.”
Dr. Meyer explains that the lung cancer screening test has been extensively studied and is extremely effective.
“Lung cancer screening is proven to be lifesaving,” says Dr. Meyer. “It has been shown to be as effective as mammography is for detecting breast cancer, and no one questions the value of a mammogram.”
He continues, “We aren’t used to talking about a possible curable treatment when it comes to lung cancer. But that’s what we’re able to do now. Preventive screening works.”
Do you qualify for a lung screening? Make an appointment at Platte Valley's Lunge Health Clinic by calling 303-498-2200 or ask your doctor for a referral.