Just Breathe Pt. 4

Dec 25, 2021 Welcome back to UHC’s House Call on WDTV. If everyone currently eligible for a lung cancer screening were screened, close to 48,000 lives could be saved. Early detection through a lung cancer screening is critical to turn the tide. Joining us once again is Lauren McCauley-Hixenbaugh, Program Manager, with WVU Cancer Institute Mobile Screening Program, for the final installment of our interview series on lung cancer and the importance of a lung cancer screening. Mountains of Hope is WV’s Comprehensive Cancer Coalition facilitated by the WVU Cancer Institute.

1). Why is a lung cancer screening so important and where can one go for a screening in North Central West Virginia?

Screening for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans, among those at high risk, can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20 percent. When tumors are detected at early stage, then the tumors are more likely to be curable. The United States Preventative Services Task Force defines High-risk as:
  • 50-80 years of age
  • Have a 20 pack-year history of smoking (this means 1 pack a day for 20 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years)
  • Are a current smoker, or have quit within the last 15 years.
For screenings to be most effective, more people need to be screened—currently in WV less than 4% of the people who are eligible for screening are being screened. This may be due to a lack of access or low awareness and knowledge among patients and providers.

2). How receptive are West Virginians when it comes to having a lung cancer screening?

Statistics from the West Virginia Cancer Registry show:
  • Only 20% of West Virginia lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage (local) when chances of survival are greatest
  • Approximately 74% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at a later stage (regional/distant)
There are currently more than 200,000 West Virginians eligible for screening. What we find is that when people understand they are eligible and that insurance covers the test, they are willing to be screened. Increasing screening rates in our state requires that patients and their healthcare providers talk about screening and overcome any barriers preventing the patient from successfully completing the test.

3). If someone is between the ages of 50-80, has a 20 year pack smoking history, and currently smokes or has quit in the last 15 years, how can they get screened for lung cancer?

  • They should schedule an appointment with their primary care provider.
  • The provider will evaluate the patient to see if they indeed meet the criteria for lung cancer screening.
  • The provider will discuss the potential benefits and harms of a screening.
  • The provider will also discuss the patients’ willingness to undergo yearly screening and complete any needed follow-up testing.
  • While smoking cessation is not a requirement for lung cancer screening, the provider will discuss the benefits of stopping and provide support for you to quit if you choose to.
Annual lung cancer screening is covered by Medicaid and Medicare (ages 55-77, smoked within past 15 years and 30-pack years) and most private insurances. Lung Cancer Screenings are available in North Central West Virginia at United Hospital Center in Bridgeport. You may call 681-342-1300 for more information or ask your provider to check eligibility.

This content was originally posted on the WDTV News website here.

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