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23 November, 2022

Just Breathe – It’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Just Breathe – It’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November is “Lung Cancer Awareness Month,” but the truth is, we should really be cognizant of this disease all year, which is the leading cause of cancer death. In fact, each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined (American Cancer Society). The good news is that the numbers of new lung cancer cases and deaths from lung cancer continue to decrease, partly because people are quitting smoking and also due to advances in early detection. With that in mind, let’s take a hard look at lung cancer and how you can screen for it, so you can best understand your risk or that of someone you love.

How do I get Screened for Lung Cancer?

According to Dr. Scott Brandman, Director of Thoracic Imaging at Arizona Diagnostic Radiology, “about 46% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at a late stage when the disease has spread from the lung to other organs.” At this point, treatment is less likely to be successful because the key to surviving cancer is finding it in its earliest stage. To do this, Dr. Brandman urges anyone at high risk for lung cancer to have annual screenings with a Low Dose chest CT. He says, “If everyone at high risk for lung cancer had a screening chest CT, then we could find the cancer in an early stage when it is best treated. And that is how we can save lives.”

In fact, screening people who are at high risk for lung cancer annually with a low dose lung CT can reduce the death rate from lung cancer by 20%.

What is Low Dose CT Screening?

Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening for lung cancer is a specialized test that is used to find lung cancer before it is symptomatic and before it has spread.

The exam itself is quick and easy. While lying on your back, you are moved through a small donut-shaped machine – not a tunnel – so there is no worry of feeling claustrophobic. There are no needles for contrast or x-ray dye, and no need to fast before the exam.

Most importantly, this screening test is covered by almost all insurance plans for most people at high risk.

How do I know if I am a Candidate for Low-Dose CT Lung Screening?

There are a few factors used to assess candidacy for this screening, all of which involve your smoking status:

  1. You have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history (meaning, ½ pack per day for 40 years, 1 pack per day for 20 years, 2 packs per day for 10 years, etc.)

  2. You currently smoke or have quit smoking within the last 15 years

  3. Are 50 to 80 years of age.

Dr. Brandman encourages everyone who is at high risk for lung cancer due to their smoking history to speak with their healthcare provider about getting a lung cancer screening CT. He adds, “My team at Arizona Diagnostic Radiology is also happy to answer any questions and help you determine if you are high risk for lung cancer.” You can visit the website for Arizona Diagnostic Radiology, www.arizonadiagnosticradiology.com, where you can find a tool to help you learn if you are eligible.

For anyone who might be hesitant about having the screening done, Dr. Brandman also wants you to know that the majority of screening tests do not find lung cancer. He says that 95% of the screening exams do not show lung cancer. “When you started smoking you might not have known what the consequences would be or maybe you just didn’t think it would become a habit. Whatever your situation is, we understand and we value you” said Dr. Brandman.

Elizabeth Walton, Executive Director at the American Lung Association Arizona, commends the screening and treatment process at Arizona Diagnostic Radiology, calling it “seamless.” She says the way they get people in to see doctors within weeks, being able to start treatment as soon as possible, is “changing the landscape in lung cancer treatment on a local level.”

Arizona Diagnostic Radiology is also making a difference through a special relationship with the Norton Thoracic Institute. This partnership makes diagnosing and treating lung cancer has never been more efficient.

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs. All cancers start when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cancers that start in other organs, such as the breast, pancreas, kidney or skin, can sometimes spread to the lungs. This is called “metastasis,” but these are not considered lung cancers. Treatment for metastatic cancer to the lungs is based on where the cancer started.

There are two main types of lung cancer and they are treated very differently.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

NSCLC make up about 80% to 85% of lung cancers. There are three main subtypes of NSCLC which are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. These subtypes start from different types of lung cells but they are grouped together as NSCLC because their treatment and prognoses are often similar.

Adenocarcinoma – this type of lung cancer occurs mainly in people who currently smoke or formerly smoked, but it is also the most common type of lung cancer seen in people who don’t smoke. It is more common in women than men, and it is more likely to occur in younger people than other types of lung cancer. This cancer is usually found in the outer parts of the lung and is more likely to be found before it has spread.

Squamous cell carcinoma – this form of lung cancer starts in the squamous cells which line the inside of the airways in the lungs. This is also often linked to a history of smoking.

Large cell carcinoma – this lung cancer can appear in any part of the lung and tends to grow and spread quickly, which can make it more difficult to treat.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Sometimes called “oat cell cancer,” about 10% to 15% of all lung cancers are SCLC. This type of lung cancer tends to grow and spread faster than NSCLC and about 70% of people with SCLC will have cancer that has already spread by the time they are diagnosed.

There are a few other types of lung tumors, however these are very rare.

What are my Risks for Lung Cancer?

A “risk factor” is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a disease, like cancer. Some risk factors are “modifiable,” meaning, they can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, cannot be changed – they are “non-modifiable.” It’s important to realize however, that having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean you will definitely get cancer. Likewise, some people who do get cancer may have few or no risk factors at all.

Modifiable Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Smoking – Smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. About 80% of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. Cigar and pipe smoking are also likely to cause lung cancer.

Secondhand Smoke – Even if you don’t smoke yourself, breathing in the smoke of others can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Secondhand smoke is thought to cause more than 7,000 deaths each year.

Exposure to Cancer-Causing Agents – Radon, which is still found in some homes and buildings; asbestos, which may be present in some workplaces, such as mines, mills, textile plants and places where insulation is used; chemicals, such as those found in labs, and diesel exhaust – all of these substances, when inhaled regularly, can cause lung cancer.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Previous Radiation Therapy to the Lungs – People who have had radiation therapy to the chest for other cancers are at higher risk for lung cancer, especially if they smoke.

Air Pollution – In cities, air pollution seems to raise the risk of lung cancer slightly. Some researchers estimate that worldwide, about 5% of lung cancer deaths may be due to outdoor air pollution.

Family History – If you have had lung cancer in the past, you have a higher risk of developing another lung cancer. Close family members, such as brothers, sisters and children of people who have had lung cancer may have a slightly higher risk of lung cancer themselves, especially if the relative was diagnosed at a younger age. Researchers have found that genetics seems to play a role in some families with a strong history of lung cancer.

With regard to these non-modifiable risks, Elizabeth Walton, Executive Director of the American Lung Association Arizona, emphasizes that “nearly one-third of lung cancer patients are non-smokers. People need to realize that there are environmental and genetic factors that play a part in lung cancer risk.” She adds, “We really do need to remove the stigma associated with lung cancer being a smoker’s disease.”

If you’d like to learn more, you can view a webinar hosted by the American Lung Association Arizona, featuring Dr. Scott Brandman from Arizona Diagnostic Radiology at https://youtu.be/atd9ZL5j4q8 [youtu.be]

Low-dose CT screening or lung cancer is also available at a RadNet site near you, because our goal is to find cancers as early as possible so people can live their healthiest lives.

Please visit www.radnetimaging.com for a center near you.

 

Article source: American Cancer Society

23 November, 2022

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