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Dr. Melissa Rooney, St. Luke's Hospital

Lung cancer screenings help reduce deaths from lung cancer

It has now been 50 years since the surgeon general's report on tobacco describing the causal role between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Surprisingly, many people, smokers and non-smokers alike, do not realize the impact smoking has on women's health.

Lung cancer remains the number one cause of cancer-related deaths in U.S. women. It is estimated that in 2014, there will be more than 108,000 new cases of lung cancer and more lung cancer deaths among women than deaths caused by breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined. A woman's lifetime risk of developing lung cancer is 1 in 16. The high death rate associated with lung cancer can, in part, be attributed to the fact that it is often found after it has spread. Cancer screening can save lives by identify lung cancer at early stages when treatments work best.

A large multi-center study published in the New England Journal of Medicine validated lung cancer screenings for high risk individuals with the use of annual low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). In this study, lung cancer screening decreased the risk of lung cancer death by 20 percent.

LDCT is a non-invasive test that is able to produce three-dimensional images of the lungs, allowing for detection of lung abnormalities. CT scans allow expert clinicians to examine the shape and size of suspected lung nodules and determine their likelihood of being cancerous. The dose of radiation is significantly lower than standard doses of a CT scan.

Given the encouraging findings of recent lung cancer screening studies, specialty physician and medical organizations (American College of Chest Physicians, American Society of Clinical Oncology, National Comprehensive Cancer Network and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) are now recommending lung cancer screening for high risk individuals.

High risk individuals meeting the following criteria may be eligible for lung cancer screening:
If you or a loved one smoke and are at high risk for lung cancer, please consider lung cancer screening.

Dr. Melissa Rooney specializes in hematology and oncology at St. Luke's Hospital. To find out more about lung cancer screenings at St. Luke's, visit St. Luke's Lung Cancer Screening Program page or call 314-205-6055.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on November 27, 2014.