Lung Cancer Screening, Early Detection Can Save Your Life

Posted on April 17, 2015 by Web Administrator

How An Afterthought Saved a Life

Joann Rabon showed no symptoms, but the screening test her doctor encouraged her to get, revealed cancer.

Rabon, 70, is going to her granddaughter’s wedding in Wisconsin this month. Of course, she’s excited to be part of the festivities. But some of her excitement stems from having recently beaten cancer.

She owes her status as a survivor to a lung cancer screening she had – almost as an afterthought – at Columbus Regional Healthcare System (CRHS). Her primary care physician, Dr. Richard Fleming, suggested she get one. She had, after all, been a smoker for many years.

But she didn’t have symptoms, so it didn’t seem necessary.

“I kept thinking: I should have that done,” said Rabon, of Whiteville, NC “But I kept putting it off.”

It’s easy to put off any kind of screening when you don’t have symptoms. But consider this — it’s estimated that more than 80 percent of lung cancers could be cured if detected early.

And lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States — more than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

The Care She Needed, Close to Home

Fortunately, there’s a top resource for screening here in Columbus County. CRHS recently became an American College of Radiology (ACR)-designated Lung Cancer Screening Center, which means our center is adhering to the strict guidelines set forth by the ACR.

“We were already on the same page with the ACR,” said Demir Bastug, M.D. a diagnostic radiologist. “We’re glad to have confirmation we’re operating in the standardized way ACR dictates.”

When Rabon came to the center for a bone density test in December, she decided to have the lung cancer screening at the same time. “It only took a few minutes,” she said of the 5- to 10-minute screening. And the results indicated something suspicious.

The screening is not the same as a diagnostic study, Dr. Bastug explained. A screening can find an abnormality, but further tests are needed to determine if the abnormality is cancer.

A biopsy on December 24 confirmed Rabon had cancer, and surgeon Dr. Ron Walters scheduled her surgery in early January.

All the cancer was removed, so she didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. And now, she’s a believer in screenings.

“I’ve had chest X-rays, but my cancer didn’t show on those,” she said.

An Inside Look at the Screening Process

Results from a national trial showed 20 percent fewer deaths among current and former smokers who were screened with a low-dose spiral CT (CAT scan), over a chest X-ray.

CHRS makes screenings as fast and easy as possible.

“You don’t need a physician’s referral, and you don’t need an appointment,” Dr. Bastug said. “We read your results the same day you’re screened and mail you a report within 24 hours.”

A copy is also sent to your primary care physician, and if you don’t have one, CHRS has a list of primary care doctors for you.

“A nurse contacts you within 72 hours of the results being mailed to see if you have questions and understand our recommendations,” Dr. Bastug said.

CRHS offers screenings for early detection of lung cancer for people with a high risk of developing the disease. Annual screening is recommended for:

  • People between the age of 55 and 80 who have smoked an average of one pack a day (or more) for 30 years, including current smokers and those who have quit in the last 15 years.
  • People over age 50 who have smoked at least an average of one pack a day for 20 years and have at least one other risk factor for lung cancer.

People in certain occupations are at higher risk of developing lung cancer, including those exposed to chemicals such as arsenic, chromium, nickel, cadmium, beryllium and silica and those exposed to diesel fumes or asbestos.

If you have a family history of lung cancer or have had other types of cancer, you may also be at higher risk.

Rabon calls the $150 she spent on the screening “the best $150 I ever spent.” She’s cancer-free, and she credits the early screening and prayers from fellow members of Piney Forest Baptist Church in Chadbourn, NC. She has lots of reasons to celebrate this spring. She’s quit smoking, her surgery was successful, and she’ll soon see her granddaughter walk down the aisle.

Take action! A low-dose CT lung screening at CRHS is $150. You don’t need an appointment or a physician’s referral. To learn more, call Columbus Regional Healthcare System Imaging at 910-641-8250.


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