Kentucky continues to have one of the highest rates of incidence and deaths from lung cancer. Unfortunately, lung cancer is usually not detected until the signs and symptoms are present, when the patient is already at a more advanced stage. The key to fight this disease is prevention and early detection. Smoking and secondhand smoke (nonsmokers who breathe the smoke of others) will increase the risk for lung cancer.
By finding cancer in early stages, it can lead to a better prognosis and outcome. That makes screening very important. Screening for lung cancer includes a low dose CT scan which can identify small nodules or other abnormalities in the lungs. Currently, lung cancer screening is recommended (and covered by most insurance plans and Medicare) for individuals ages 55-80 who have smoked within the last 15 years and have more than a 30 pack-year history of smoking.
So what’s a pack year? A pack year is calculated by multiplying the packs of cigarettes smoked per day times the number of years smoked.
Smoking 1 pack per day x 5 years = 5 pack years
Smoking ½ pack per day x 30 years = 15 pack years
The best thing that can be done is living a healthy lifestyle, obtaining regular checkups and screening, if you qualify. A lung cancer screening can only be ordered by a physician or nurse practitioner. Talk to your health care provider to see if you are at risk. Screening CT scans do not guarantee that you will not develop lung cancer in the future.
This blog was written by:
- Dana Lee, RN, BSN, OCN, the oncology nurse navigator for the Thoracic Oncology Multidisciplinary Clinic at UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
- Smita Ranjan, APRN, who is a nurse practitioner with UofL Physicians – Medical Oncology/Hematology at UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center.