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Treasure Your Chest – Lung Health

This year alone, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 234,030 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer, making it the second most common cancer for both men and women.  Lung cancer screenings are an important tool in diagnosing abnormalities early, and are estimated to save 1 life per 217 persons screened.

Dr. Alden Parsons with WakeMed Heart & Vascular Physicians – Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery provided the following information about lung cancer screenings.

Lung Cancer Screenings

Screenings should be done annually for the following individuals:

  • Ages 55 to 77
  • Do not have signs or symptoms of lung cancer (those who have symptoms should have diagnostic testing)
  • Have not previously had lung cancer
  • Currently smoke or quit less than 15 years who
  • Are or were heavy smokers

A CT-scan with low-dose radiation is used for screenings. The screening scan can identify pulmonary nodules, which are small masses of tissue, to determine if they are cancerous.

People with lung cancer don’t typically experience symptoms until Stages 3 or 4.

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Abnormal nodules can be found during the screening, when the cancer is still in Stage 1. That why screenings are beneficial, as this allows lung cancer to be found when it is potentially curable.

The downside to screenings is there can be over-diagnosis, where nodules appear positive but are not cancerous. This can lead to additional unnecessary tests to determine if the abnormality is cancer. Be sure to weigh your options with a physician to determine your risk factors and if lung cancer screenings are recommended.

Results from Lung Cancer Screenings

When a nodule is found, the level of suspicion for cancer is determined by risk factors, including age and sex. It is more common for women than men to get lung cancer if they never smoked, or if they live with a smoker and are exposed to second-hand smoke.

If the nodule is small, physicians usually recommend monitoring it over time to see if it continues to grow. Large nodules are usually biopsied to determine if it is cancerous.

If cancer is found, there are both non-surgical and surgical treatments. Your physician can discuss the options to determine the best treatment plan for you.


About Alden Parsons, MD

Dr. Alden Parsons specializes in minimally invasive thoracic surgery, which mainly involves surgical procedures of the lungs and esophagus, as well as other types of surgical procedures within the chest. Request an appointment with Dr. Parsons today.

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