A program at Passavant Area Hospital is providing screening for those at high risk for lung cancer.
The lung cancer screening program consists of a cat scan of a patients chest and lungs without contrast, provided once a year for those who would be at high risk for lung cancer from cigarette smoking.
Kristin Perucho is the Lung Screening Nurse Navigator for Memorial Health Systems and says that lung screenings are not recommended for everyone, and there are certain requirements for someone to be eligible for the program.
“They are really just recommended for persons who are at high risk of getting lung cancer, which are usually smokers, not always, but the large majority of lung cancers are from people who have smoked either currently or in the past at some point.
Eligibility is for those who are between 55 and 77 years old. You do need to be either a current smoker of cigarettes specifically or a former smoker who has smoked in the last 15 years, and that smoking history has to be fairly significant, so equivalent to smoking a pack a day for 30 years or more, or something along those lines. It doesn’t necessarily include the person who may have smoked a year or two in college or something like that.”
Perucho says that people who are already having symptoms of lung cancer are not eligible for the screenings as they would need to have a full diagnostic cat scan to fully diagnose all symptoms.
Perucho says that the effectiveness of the screening is critical for detecting lung cancer in an early stage for a greater chance of survival.
“So far the screenings have been very effective. 80% of the screenings being done are catching lung cancer at early stages, stage one or stage two. Which is different as historically lung cancers have often been found after persons are having symptoms, and typically at that point, the cancer is in stage three or stage four. So survival rates are greatly improved if it is found in an early stage.”
Perucho says that symptoms of later stage lung cancer can vary and if someone is having any of the symptoms, they need to contact their health professional right away.
“If they are having increased shortness of breath, coughing up blood, pain in the chest, sometimes unexplained weight loss happens in a short period of time. Those are all concerning so definitely talk to your health care provider if you are experiencing any of those symptoms. You would not be eligible for a screening, they are only for those who are not having current symptoms, but you might be eligible for a diagnostic cat scan.”
The lung screening program is entering it’s second year at Passavant. Those eligible for the program need to be referred by their primary care physician in order to participate. The program is covered by most insurance providers, but it is suggested to check with your specific provider if you are unsure.
Passavant also offers smoking cessation classes to help with quitting cigarettes for good. The next class starts on January 14th, and runs for 7 weeks. For information on the class call 217-788-3559
Help is also available via the Illinois Tobacco Quitline: 1-866-784-8937