If you have a history of smoking and worry about the consequences, you may be a candidate for Edward Hospital’s new lung cancer screening program.
It’s the kind of worry that prompted Plainfield resident, LuAnn Klacza, 58, to sign up as the program’s first patient. She not only has a family history of lung cancer, but also chalked up 30 years of smoking before quitting 12 years ago.
“I’ve been concerned about my lung cancer risk for years,” said Klacza. “Especially since I work with a lot of chemicals in my hair salon.”
The Edward program reflects new guidelines that came out of The National Lung Screening Trial, a study of more than 50,000 current and former smokers that was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. The research showed that using CT scans to screen the lungs of people at higher risk of lung cancer led to early detection and saved lives.
“When compared to use of chest X-rays for screening, the CT approach yielded a 20 percent lower death rate from lung cancer,” said Maria Quejada, MD, Edward Cancer Center medical oncologist.
CT lung screening is recommended for persons 55 to 74 who smoked a pack or more of cigarettes daily for 30 years (unless they quit 15 or more years ago), or two packs a day for 15 years. And, those 50 and older who smoked a pack a day or more for at least 20 years and have one or more additional risk factors, such as having COPD, family history of lung cancer or extended exposure to hazardous materials, such as asbestos.
“The research went on to say that screening alone isn’t enough. There has to be follow-up,” according to Dr. Quejada, who is co-director of the Edward Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Clinic. “Anyone who goes through the lung cancer screening at Edward will automatically be enrolled in our clinic, which includes oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, pulmonologists and other cancer experts. The group will review the patient’s images and make recommendations, which the nurse navigator shares with the patient.”
“Smoking cessation support is a key follow-up for anyone we see who is still smoking,” said Kim Rohan, RN, the clinic’s coordinator and nurse navigator. “The most important thing any of us can do to keep our lungs healthy is never start smoking.”
“If a lung screening points to further testing and a cancer diagnosis, the clinic physicians are available to meet with the patient to develop an individualized treatment plan. This allows the patient to start treatment promptly, rather than spending a month coordinating visits to specialists,” said Dr. Quejada.
Klacza went to Edward for her CT scan – a 15-minute, non-invasive test. A call the next day from Rohan brought good news. There were two tiny nodules in one of LuAnn’s lobes, not surprising given the repeated respiratory infections she’d had. They now have a baseline image of LuAnn’s lungs. She’ll come back in a year for a diagnostic screening.
“I’m very happy I did this,” said Klacza. “I now have peace of mind knowing I have a baseline and a plan to follow up next year.”
For a preliminary assessment of your risk of lung cancer or other respiratory disease, complete the screening questionnaire at www.edward.org/lungaware. To find out more about lung cancer CT screenings, visit www.edward.org/thoraciconcology or call (630) 646-6119.