November is nationally recognized as Lung Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer among men and women in the United States. Lung cancer develops in the lungs over a long period of time. There are two major types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Eighty percent of lung cancer deaths are linked to smoking and many others are due to secondhand smoke. There are also other lung cancer risk factors such as exposure to radon, asbestos, arsenic, and other workplace agents.
Finding early signs of lung cancer was once next to impossible, however, studies are proving that screening with low-dose CT scans may identify the beginnings of disease in high-risk patients. Holzer is proud to offer this type of screening at our Athens and Gallipolis locations and has received a grant from Whedon Cancer Detection Foundation to provide a limited number of free screenings to those who qualify.
Holzer Health System is designated as a Lung Cancer Screening Center by the American College of Radiology (ACR). Holzer began its Low-Dose CT Scan Program on September 1, 2015 and to date has completed over 2,065 studies. By obtaining and utilizing the Whedon Cancer Detection Foundation grant funds, Holzer is able to offer a limited number of screenings for individuals who qualify.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. The American Cancer Society’s estimates approximately 228,820 new cases diagnosed and 135,720 deaths from lung cancer in 2020. An annual Low-dose CT Screening Test for individuals at high risk has the potential to dramatically improve lung cancer survival rates by finding the disease at an early treatable stage. It is estimated that if everyone who is at high risk is screened, there will be a 14 percent reduction in lung cancer deaths in the United States.
The goal of screening is to detect lung cancer at a time when it is not causing symptoms and when treatment can be most successful. Screening should increase survival and quality of life. An important recent study referred to as the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) has demonstrated that screening under the appropriate conditions and in the right individuals can reduce death from lung cancer by 20%. Additional factors such as family history and occupational exposure can play a role and should be discussed with your doctor or a member of our lung team. We will only screen those individuals who are considered high risk.
Every person scheduled for the screening will meet with Holzer’s Program Coordinator who will answer questions and facilitate any follow up necessary. She will communicate with the referring physician and the Holzer Lung Team to ensure comprehensive care.
“We are pleased to be able to offer this service and have detected several lung cancers at stages where they are treatable. We are excited about the prospect of saving additional lives with this quick, simple exam,” stated Steven Conley, MD, Radiologist. “We are thankful to all of our staff for their efforts to make this process easy for our patients and expedite follow-up with physicians in other specialized areas if necessary.”
Individuals who are eligible to receive the low-dose CT scan include patients age 55-77 and are smokers or who have quit within the last 15 years with a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years. Pack-years are calculated by multiplying the average number of packs of cigarettes a person smokes per day by the number of years a person has smoked.
The benefits of lung cancer screening CT scans are highest for those with significant lung cancer risk. Current research has focused on patients at a high risk for lung cancer. Several factors contribute to lung cancer risk: age, smoking history, environmental exposure to carcinogens like asbestos, beryllium, or radon; and exposure to secondhand smoke. The older you are and the more you have smoked or been exposed to smoke and other carcinogens, the higher your risk will be.
“We want to thank Whedon Cancer Detections Foundation for funding our request to enhance the Holzer Health System Low-Dose CT Scan Program for the fourth year in a row,” Chris Thomas, Executive Director of Imaging Services, Holzer Health System. “As a result, it has afforded us the opportunity to offer this proven lifesaving early detection scan to patients who otherwise might not receive it. This is just another example of the great things happening here at Holzer to benefit our patients.”
CT scanners such as the advanced 64 slice Brilliance CT used at Holzer are designed to ensure low levels of radiation exposure to patients and staff. Today’s advanced CT scanners offer an optimal combination of low radiation exposure and short examination times while maintaining excellent quality images. During a CT scan, dozens of low-dose X-rays are taken all at once from various angles. The information is fed into a computer which produces highly detailed, cross-sectional pictures of the body. (If you think of the body as a loaf of bread, what the CT can do is provide a highly detailed image of any “slice” of that loaf). Unlike regular x-rays, these pictures can show tiny differences present in soft tissue and bone. CT scans are typically used to look for cancer in various organs.
CT results are read by a radiologist within 24 hours. Holzer is proud to have five Board Certified Radiologists: Steven Conley, MD, Medical Director, Radiology, Michael Meyers, DO, Bruce Pennington, MD, Dean Siciliano, MD, Phillip B. Long, MD, with extensive experience reading CT scans. Results are mailed to the patient in a week or less with instructions. They are also available on our patient portal, MyHolzer.org.
In observance of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the American Lung Association has launched Lung Force Initiative to unite individuals to stand together against lung cancer. The ALA is offering “30 Days 30 Heroes” on the social media channels, showcasing inspirational lung cancer stories. We encourage everyone to check out the stories. For more information on low-dose CT services or the grant funding, call (740) 441-3905 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.