When it comes to smoking, the good news is that strategies used to reduce the rate of smoking are working. The bad news is that clinicians will continue to see the health ramifications 20 to 40 years after people quit.
Craig Zastrow, NP, APNP, a family medicine nurse practitioner with Ascension Medical Group at Merrill, sees the adverse health effects smoking has on patients and their families.
“Smoking not only harms nearly every organ of the body, it is also the leading cause of lung cancer,” said Zastrow. “But there’s hope: the risk of dying from smoking-related illnesses drops significantly within just a few years of giving up cigarettes.”
According to the World Health Organization, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer among both men and women in the United States.
The American Lung Association (ALA) warns that most symptoms of lung cancer do not appear until the disease is in an advanced stage. Many people go misdiagnosed for years because their symptoms are similar to other diseases, such as pneumonia, allergies or a cold.
According to the ALA, more than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.
Despite these grim statistics, studies have shown that people who have low-dose CT have a 20 percent lower chance of dying from lung cancer because it is detected at the earliest possible stage when the disease has the greatest chance of being cured with early treatment. The ALA estimates that 9 million Americans are eligible for a lung cancer screening, and if only half of those were screened, more than 15,000 lives could be saved.
Zastrow said low-dose CT provides the same early detection and improved outcomes for patients with lung cancer that survivors of breast and colon cancers get from mammography and colonoscopy. Low-dose CT is a safe and non-invasive study that collects 3-D images from all angles around the chest of the lungs, providing detailed images that enable radiologists to detect tiny abnormalities.
“There’s a lot of shame and blame with lung cancer that causes people to put off seeking medical attention, but research shows that early detection provides the best hope for a cure,” said Zastrow.
Unfortunately, nonsmokers are not immune from lung cancer. Other factors that can increase lung cancer risk are family history or genetic factors and exposure to cancer causing agents.
CT scan lung nodule screening is recommended for high-risk patients who are:
•Adults between the ages of 55-80
•Current smokers or those who have quit smoking in the last 15 years, with a 30-pack year history of smoking. To calculate pack years smoked, multiply the number of packs smoked per day by the number of years smoked.
•Adults age 50 and older with a 20-pack year smoking history and one other risk factor, such as a family history of lung cancer, personal history of other cancers or significant history of exposure to certain environmental factors such as asbestos or radon.
Almost all insurance providers cover low-dose CT scan lung nodule screening which is offered in Merrill at Ascension Good Samaritan Hospital. To determine if you are a candidate, please call Ascension Good Samaritan at 715-539-2124 or Ascension Medical Group at 715-804-7500.