St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka Launches Lung Cancer Screening Program

St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka Launches Lung Cancer Screening Program

In an effort to detect lung cancer early for high risk, current and ex-smokers, St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka is now offering low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) lung screenings. Based on the findings of the National Lung Screening Trials (2011), LDCT lung screening can lower the risk of death from lung cancer by 20% in people who are at high risk.

“The goal of LDCT lung screening is to save lives,” says Donald Wheeler, MD, Chief of Staff and Director of Radiology at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. “Without LDCT lung screening, lung cancer is usually not found until a person develops symptoms. At that time, the cancer is much harder to treat.”

Of the top four deadliest cancers in the U.S. (lung, prostate, breast and colorectal), lung cancer is the only one not subject to routine screening. The annual screenings are covered by most major insurance plans, including Medicare, if patients meet the following criteria:

  • Are between the ages of 55 to 77
  • Have smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years
  • Fit the profile above and currently smoke or have quit with the last 15 years
  • Get a referral from their primary care physician
  • Have no symptoms or history of lung cancer

Risk factors for lung cancer include having cancer in the past, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, a family history of lung cancer and exposure to certain substances (including asbestos, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, diesel fumes, nickel, radon, silica and uranium).

Experts say a low-dose CT lung cancer screening is one of the easiest exams you can take. There are no medications or needles involved. Patients have to be able to hold their breath for at least six seconds while the chest scan is being taken. While there is a 25 percent chance that a nodule will be detected from a lung screening, most nodules are benign (non-cancerous) lung tissue. Still, patients are advised to always follow up with their primary care physician after getting the results.

“Lung cancer is not only treatable, but potentially curable when diagnosed in its early stages,” said Roberta Luskin-Hawk, MD, chief executive for St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County. “St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka is thrilled to provide to our community this technology for the early detection of lung cancer.”

Patients who are eligible for LDCT should contact their primary care provider to order a screening. For those who are currently uninsured or who do not have a primary care provider, patients can call the Priority Care Center at 442-0478.

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