What You Need to Know About Lung Cancer Screening - PIH Health

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Published on March 26, 2015

What You Need to Know About Lung Cancer Screening

Lung Cancer Screening

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States. This is largely due to the fact that lung cancer is often not discovered until it is in the late stages when it is harder to treat.

PIH Health has a new Lung Cancer Screening Program that can help identify cancer before an individual begins to experience symptoms. The screening exam itself is very simple and painless and takes just a few minutes to complete. Studies have shown that having a yearly low dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan can help reduce the risk of lung cancer death by 20 percent.

Lung Cancer ScreeningThis was the case for Gail Johnson. After smoking for 65 years, she was concerned about the possibility of lung cancer even though she had no symptoms. While at a regular check-up, her doctor suggested the new Lung Cancer Screening Program at PIH Health, and she figured she had nothing to lose.

On September 9, she had a LDCT scan at PIH Health Whittier Hospital. The scan found a 12 millimeter (mm) nodule in her left lung, which looked highly suspicious for cancer, along with two smaller nodules in her right lung, one of which looked slightly suspicious but was too small to biopsy or remove. To remove the larger nodule, Johnson underwent a surgery called a partial lung resection, which removed part of her upper lung. The innovative and minimally invasive surgery was performed by PIH Health Cardiothoracic surgeon Eduardo Tovar MD. The procedure involves a technique that minimizes pain and allows for a much faster recovery time - to the extent that most patients are ready to go home within 24 hours of the operation, decreasing the risk of complications and allowing patients to return home sooner.

The pathology results came back and the nodule was confirmed to be an aggressive form of squamous cell cancer. Both of the smaller nodules will be monitored carefully going forward.

“Fortunately, it was found at the earliest stage possible, and no lymph nodes were involved,” said Daniel Saket MD, medical director, Radiology. “This was an aggressive lesion, and if she hadn’t been screened and presented with symptoms just several months later, it’s likely that the cancer would have been at an incurable stage. Yet because of the screening, it was found very early and will not require further treatment.”

Johnson is thrilled with the results and so thankful for the screening program that may have saved her life.

“Without the screening program, I would never have known I had lung cancer until it was too late,” said Johnson. “This gave me an important heads-up, and now I hope to live well into my nineties. This screening bought me several more years--if not decades--of my life. And the compassionate care of all the people involved was phenomenal.”

Lung Cancer Screening Program Qualifications

  • Men and women
  • Ages 55 - 80
  • With a smoking habit equivalent to one pack per day for 30 years
  • Current smoker or has quit smoking within the past 15 years

To learn more about the PIH Health Lung Cancer Screening Program, please call 562.967.2892.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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