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Lung CT might be effective for screening in at-risk, advisory group says

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 5:38 PM
Last updated 6:49 PM
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It is a “tiny, tiny spot” on her lung, but Lynn Waseleski finds it comforting.

Dr. Phillip Catalano, a thoracic surgeon, is among the doctors who think lung CT screening is underused.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Dr. Phillip Catalano, a thoracic surgeon, is among the doctors who think lung CT screening is underused.

After initially discovering the spot on a lung CT scan at Doctors Hospital in January, a second scan four months later found the spot had not changed and might have gotten smaller, which helped convince her and her doctor that the former heavy smoker might not be facing cancer but something more benign.

“The peace of mind, you just cannot imagine,” said Waseleski, who smoked three packs a day for 28 years before
quitting seven years ago.

Longtime smokers might find it easier in the future to get the lung CT screening. The U.S. Pre­ven­tive Service Task Force issued a draft recommendation Monday saying it found “adequate evidence” that the tests would prove effective in detecting early lung cancer in an at-risk older group.

The draft recommendation, which is not final and is open for comment until Aug. 26, closely mirrors studies that found the screenings would be cost-effective in finding lung cancer early in smokers in their 50s and 60s who had smoked a pack a day or more for 30 years.

In the National Lung Scree­ning Trial, an annual exam reduced lung cancer deaths by 20 percent. It is one reason thoracic surgeon Phillip Catalano and others urged Doctors Hospital to provide low-cost lung CT screening for that higher-risk group.

“That is a dramatic improvement,” Catalano said, and the draft announcement should spur others to begin offering the screening.

The problem of lung cancer is still enormous, and the screening is woefully underused, Catalano said.

“It’s crazy when you think about it because the number of deaths in the United States every year from lung cancer is still greater than breast, cervix, prostate and colon (cancers) combined,” he said.

Lung cancer is expected to kill 159,480 people in the U.S. this year, accounting for 27 percent of all cancer deaths, including 4,670 in Georgia and 2,990 in South Car­olina, according to the Amer­ican Cancer Society.

Being able to get the screening more easily and potentially without paying a lot out of pocket will be important, Waseleski said.

“That’s a lifeline, without a doubt,” she said.


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