Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, and the leading cause of cancer deaths in America, but low-dose CT (LDCT) lung cancer screenings are significantly helping to reduce the risk of dying from the disease. St. Clair Hospital’s Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening Program, has since 2015 provided screenings to more than 1,017 smokers, former smokers and others at risk. Among those, 72 were found to be suspicious for malignancy, and 15 had positive cancer diagnoses.
“In lung cancer, early detection is critical, as it means a better chance for survival, but it’s difficult,” says board-certified thoracic surgeon Richard H. Maley Jr., M.D., of Maley Thoracic Surgery Associates, part of St. Clair Medical Services. “Lung cancers can be aggressive and spread early, but symptoms are rarely present until the cancer is advanced. Your first symptoms may be in an organ other than the lungs: it could be a severe headache because lung cancer spreads to the brain, bones, liver and adrenals.”
Smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer. Dr. Maley says that although the availability of LDCT scans is good news for smokers, it is not an alternative to quitting. “Annual LDCT scans must be combined with smoking cessation. If you still smoke and your scan is normal, it doesn’t mean you can keep smoking. Our program provides support to help you quit.”
At St. Clair, a committee of radiologists, surgeons, pathologists and oncologists reviews all LDCT lung scans and makes recommendations to the patient and primary care physician. Dr. Maley hopes informed consumers initiate the screenings. “We want people to go to their doctors and say, ‘I think I qualify for this.’ St. Clair is affiliated with Hillman Cancer Center; we have excellent radiologists and surgeons and provide the highest quality cancer care. Our program is making a difference in the early detection of lung cancer.”
To contact Dr. Maley, please call 412-942-5710.