lung cancer screeningBy Heather Mangan

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and this year 850 Utah residents will be diagnosed with the disease. During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the American Lung Association’s Lung Force initiative is highlighting the new availability of a lifesaving tool: lung cancer screening.

One reason why lung cancer is so deadly is because by the time you have symptoms, it may already have spread and become more difficult to treat. Lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan is a powerful tool to diagnose lung cancer in individuals who are at high risk at an early stage, when it is much more likely to be curable. An estimated 9 million Americans are considered at high risk for lung cancer, and if only half of those at high risk were screened, more than 15,000 could be saved. Despite this lifesaving opportunity, fewer than 5 percent of high-risk Americans have been screened for lung cancer.

“The toll lung cancer takes on our families, friends, and neighbors in Utah and across the nation is truly devastating,” said Bill Pfeifer, executive vice president of the southwest region American Lung Association. “With the availability of lung cancer screening, we have the opportunity to find the disease earlier and save lives. However, to make this lifesaving opportunity a reality, we must do more to raise awareness of both lung cancer and screening.”

According to the American Lung Association’s Lung Force initiative, here are the top four things everyone should know about lung cancer screening:

—A low-dose CT scan is the only tool that reduces the lung cancer mortality rate for those at high risk. Low-dose CT scan is a special kind of X-ray that takes many pictures as you lie on a table that slides in and out of the machine. A computer then combines these pictures into a detailed picture of your body. It is painless and quick.

—Screening is not recommended for everyone. Screening is recommended for those considered at high risk for the disease. To learn more about your risk, take the lung cancer screening eligibility quiz at savedbythescan.org and speak to your doctor if you think you may be at risk.

—Awareness of lung cancer screening is critically low. Despite the lifesaving potential of screening, 84 percent of those who qualify are unfamiliar with the low-dose CT scan, according to the American Lung Association’s fourth annual Lung Health Barometer. To raise awareness about lung cancer screening, the American Lung Association’s Lung Force initiative has partnered with the Ad Council to launch the “Saved By The Scan” public awareness campaign urging everyone to learn more about lung cancer screening.

—Screening is covered by most healthcare plans. Lung cancer screening is now covered by Medicare and most healthcare plans for those considered at high risk. However, according to the Lung Health Barometer, only 15 percent of those who qualify for screening are aware that it is covered by Medicare and most healthcare plans at no cost.

For media interested in speaking with a medical expert about lung health, lung cancer and lung cancer screening, email heather.mangan@lung.org or call (312) 801-7631.

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