The Wellstar Lung Cancer Screening Program has detected its 500th lung cancer. As a testament to the importance of these screenings, 75% of the cancers detected were in the early stages, Stages I and II, when cancer is at its most curable state. Established in 2008, Wellstar has one of the largest and longest-running lung screening programs in the United States.
“This truly is a landmark for us. I’ve been with the program since its inception and have witnessed its dramatic growth over the years. It’s rewarding and fulfilling to help so many people by finding cancer in its early stages,” said Tiffany Nelson, manager of the program for Wellstar.
Lung cancer screening is performed on people who are believed to be at the highest risk of developing lung cancer. Those are primarily patients who qualify under the United States Preventive Services Taskforce guidelines, which include people who have 20-pack-years history of smoking, are 50 to 80 years of age and who have not quit smoking for more than 15 years.
“Over the last 15 years, the program has enrolled nearly 14,000 patients, 70% of whom have remained in the program year after year. Remaining in the program is important because nearly 50% of the cancers were detected on scans done years after initial enrollment,” Stephanie Lamar, executive director of preventative health at Wellstar, stated.
About one in every 30 patients in the program will have lung cancer detected at some point in their life. By discovering the cancer early, physicians have a much better chance of curing the cancer. This principle of early detection is the same as is demonstrated in mammography for breast cancer or colonoscopy for colon cancer.
In the same way as mammography, a recurring annual exam is important in lung cancer screening. In lung cancer screening, a low-dose CT scan of the chest is performed every year to look for the development of, or enlargement of, a “spot on the lung” known as a lung nodule. Once a suspicious nodule is detected, a biopsy is conducted, and treatment begins.
“Screening is the best way to identify early-stage lung cancer and reduce death from this disease. We’re very proud of the impact the Lung Screening Program has made for hundreds of people in our community, but we have a lot more work to do,” stated Dr. Bill Mayfield, medical director of the program.
In Georgia, only about 5% of those who qualify are enrolled for screening. If you or a loved one are a current or former smoker and think you may qualify for screening, please call (470) 793-4AIR (4247) or talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening.