With the hopes of catching lung cancer in its earlier, more curable stages, West Penn Hospital, is offering a free screening program for those at risk.
“If you find a patient and there at stage one they’re potentially curative the five year survivor rates are significantly higher, and it’s at almost 90 percent, so it places a huge impact on healthcare cost if you’re diagnosing patients at stage one versus stage four,” said Dr. Lana Schumacher, Allegheny Health Network Esophageal and Thoracic Institute Co-Director.
A report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Forces recommends yearly tests for people ages 55 to 80 who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, or the equivalent.
The free screening initiative at West Penn was designed as a pilot project with the expectation of implementing the program throughout the Allegheny Health Network. Schumacher says cost of care continues to rise as cancer is diagnosed at a late stage.
The National Lung Cancer Screening Trials released in 2011, showed that low-dose CT scans can save lives by reducing lung cancer mortality by 20 percent.
Schumacher said it is important for those at risk to be proactive about their health.
“If there is a positive finding of what we call a nodule depending on its size we will recommend follow up scans every so often whether it is three to six depending on the size, or if it’s a lager liaison we would recommend a biopsy,” said Schumacher.
The trial is funded by the insurance company Highmark with the hopes that free screenings like this will encourage patients to schedule an appointment. Participants can schedule an appointment by calling 1-844-AHN-LUNG.
Participants must be age 55 to 74 and have smoked more than “30 pack years.” That’s one pack a day for thirty years or the equivalent such as two packs a day for fifteen years.
According to the American Cancer Society lung cancer kills an estimated 159,260 deaths from Lung cancer (86,930 in men and 72,330 among women). Dr. Lana Schumacher says that Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer across the country, but if detected early enough it’s also one of the most preventable.
“We want to make an effect on patients’ lives, and we want to diagnose high risk patients at an early stage of lung cancer when we can treat them.”