Piedmont Atlanta Hospital has launched a new lung cancer screening program to improve early detection of the disease, which is the second leading cause of death behind heart disease.
Patients who meet a certain criteria and are deemed “high risk” for lung cancer will be able to participate in the new program, which uses a low-dose CT (computed tomography) screening to detect the disease. Those who are at high risk include people older than 55 years of age who have smoked approximately one pack of cigarettes a day for more than 30 years; those who have smoked two packs a day for 15 years; and those who have smoked three packs a day for 10 years or more.
Also at risk are current or former smokers over 50 years of age with at least a 20-pack year history and at least one additional risk factor (radon exposure, lung disease history, family history of lung cancer, or occupational exposure to known cancer-causing chemicals). Pack years are defined by the number of packs per day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked.
“The test only takes 30 minutes to complete and the new low-dose CT uses far less radiation,” said Saeid Khansarinia, M.D., Piedmont Atlanta. “This new program will help us catch lung cancer at an earlier stage so we have better chances of curing our patients and giving them a fighting chance at life.”
A national lung screening trial found that screening with the use of low-dose CT, which is used to find nodules in the lungs, reduces mortality from lung cancer by 20 percent. Since insurance does not typically cover these screenings, Piedmont Atlanta will offer the tests at a discounted rate of $99.
As with many diseases, early detection of lung cancer is key to successful treatment. Screenings such as the new low-dose CT can detect cancer before signs appear. Common symptoms of lung cancer include coughing that lasts, blood in lungs, excessive mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest area pain, tiredness, pneumonia, hoarse voice, pain when swallowing, and high-pitched sound when breathing.
Known risk factors for lung cancer are tobacco smoking, contact with radon, contact with asbestos or other cancer-causing agents, family history of lung cancer, diagnoses of certain other cancers and/or lung disease and contact with second-hand smoke.