Did you know that lung cancer screening can save your life or that of your loved one? Better screening and minimally invasive surgery are changing the prognosis for patients with early-stage lung cancer.
We breathe in and out, every minute of every day. Our lungs are critical for life. Yet if a group of cells in someone’s lungs starts growing into a tumor, that person usually can’t see it or feel it. Until it becomes large enough to be dangerous.
The lungs are encased in the ribs, with few nerve endings. So a tumor has to grow quite large. Only then it starts to take away enough lung capacity to cause discomfort or make someone cough. Even below that threshold, as a tumor becomes larger, it is more likely for some cells to separate off and metastasize.
Early detection of lung cancer by CT (computed tomography) lung cancer screening offers an opportunity to catch a tumor before it grows and spreads. In 2011, the National Lung Screening Trial with over 50,000 participants established the life-saving value of lung cancer screening by lowdose CT for people with a history of heavy smoking. In the last two years, both Medicare and private insurance began to cover the screening for lung cancer procedure.
“Better lung cancer screening is changing the outcomes for lung cancer patients by allowing us to find these tumors earlier,” says Allan Pickens, a Winship thoracic surgeon and director of minimally invasive thoracic surgery and thoracic oncology at Emory University Hospital Midtown. “When we find these tumors earlier, they are generally of a smaller size and have not had the chance to spread to other parts of the body, lymph nodes or other organs.”
Because of increased numbers of lung cancer screenings, doctors now discover lung cancer when it’s small. Often, less than two centimeters wide. Clinical studies show this is a point when it may be possible to treat the cancer by surgery alone. Surgeons also have been shifting to minimally invasive approaches known as video-assisted thoracic surgery.
Lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer in the U.S. It takes the lives of more people than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. Lung screening may help with the early diagnosis and increased survival rates for lung cancer patients. Emory Healthcare’s low-radiation-dose lung screening is available for patients with a significant smoking history.
Visit emoryhealthcare.org/lungct to learn more about screening qualifications.