hands against a black background holding a white ribbonYou may be diligent about getting a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer or a mammography to screen for breast cancer, but if you smoke or formerly smoked, you should consider adding lung cancer screening to your healthcare routine, say the doctors at Pulmonary Associates of Richmond (PAR). November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and the specialists at PAR are raising awareness about the life-saving role of lung cancer screening.

“Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, and lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in America,” said John T. Sentz, DO, one of the pulmonologists at Pulmonary Associates of Richmond. “We strongly encourage all those who meet the screening criteria to undergo a simple, non-invasive screening test because finding lung cancer at its earliest stage, before it has spread, offers the best chance of successful treatment.”

Those with early-stage lung cancer often do not have any symptoms. In fact, lung cancer may be present for many years before symptoms occur. When symptoms do appear, they may be mistaken for other problems such as an upper respiratory infection.

Screening involves a low-dose CT scan and is recommended for anyone considered at high risk for lung cancer. This includes those who:

  • Are between 50 – 80 years of age,
  • Currently smoke or have a 20-pack year history of smoking (if you smoked one pack a day for 20 years, or 2 packs a day for 10 years, you have a 20-pack year history).

Screening is only recommended for those who meet the criteria and do not currently have symptoms of lung cancer. Symptoms include chronic cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing up blood, extreme fatigue, or unplanned weight loss. See your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

“People may be hesitant to undergo screening because they fear the results,” said Dr. Sentz. “However, there have been tremendous advances in lung cancer treatment over the past decade leading to a 30% increase in lung cancer survival.”

The low-dose CT scan used for lung cancer screening is safe and non-invasive. It takes a few minutes, and the radiation exposure is only about 1/5 of the radiation involved in a traditional CT scan.

Contact Pulmonary Associates of Richmond to discuss your lung cancer screening eligibility and to understand the risks and benefits of the test. If you are eligible and decide to undergo screening, your PAR physician will provide you with a prescription for the screening test and will review the results with you. The cost of screening for eligible individuals is covered by most commercial insurance providers as well as Medicare and Medicaid.

Call PAR at 804-320-4243 to schedule an appointment or learn more.