NOVEMBER 14, 2016, PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) – Naval Hospital Pensacola has a new program for lung cancer screening at-risk patients, which is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women according to the American Cancer Society.
Lung cancer can be very hard to cure, but early detection can lower the risk of dying from this disease.
“If we can find the cancer before symptoms appear, life expectancy is much better,” said Cmdr. Mark Seigh, radiologist, Naval Hospital Pensacola.
Lung cancer is often preventable because it is related to smoking or secondhand smoke. It is possible to develop lung cancer from exposure to radon or other environmental factors, but these are far less common. Screenings are usually done for patients who are between the age of 55 and 80, who smoked at least 30 pack years and currently smoke or quit smoking less than 15 years ago. Pack years is the number of cigarette packs smoked every day multiplied by the number of years smoking.
“If you have a history of smoking, you should talk to your provider about whether a lung cancer screening is necessary or not,” said Lt. Harry Calisch, a physician at NHP.
The lung cancer screening program at NHP is currently for patients enrolled to care at one of the hospital’s Medical Home Port teams. If a patient is determined to be at risk for lung cancer, their primary care manager will refer them to the Radiology Department to have a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) test done. The LDCT makes pictures of the insides of a person’s lungs.
“The LDCT is similar to an x-ray and is the study of choice for lung cancer,” said Seigh. “It only takes a couple of minutes, and the results will usually be available to the physician that day.”
The results of the test will be analyzed for signs of cancer and a biopsy may be performed. If cancer cells are found, a treatment plan will be developed between the physician and patient.
“If cancer is discovered after the screening, the patient’s provider will work with them to develop an appropriate treatment plan,” said Calisch. “If discovered early, the chances for beating the cancer are significantly better than if it is discovered later.”
The screening program is not a substitute for prevention. The best way to reduce the risk of lung cancer is to not smoke. Quitting smoking can be very difficult, but help is available through your health care provider. Tobacco cessation counseling is also available through NHP’s Health Promotion and Wellness Department. The counseling is available to all TRICARE beneficiaries and appointments can be made by calling (850) 505-7243.
Each year, there are over 150,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States according to the American Cancer Society. If you think you may be at risk, contact your health care provider today.