Each year, 750 to 1,000 Mainers die from lung cancer, exceeding the number of deaths attributed to breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. A national study has shown this number can be reduced with access to lung cancer screening programs. Eastern Maine Medical Center now offers this type of screening available to patients in its region.
“The National Lung Screening Trial studied the effectiveness of an annual low dose CT scan in identifying early lung cancers in active or previous smokers,” explains John Klemperer, MD, FACS, EMMC Cardiothoracic Surgery of Maine. “Annual low dose screening CT scans were performed on 26,000 individuals who were, or had been, heavy smokers. Several early lung cancers were identified and treated. This resulted in a 20 percent reduction of lung cancer deaths in this group over the next five years.”
In response to these promising results, and the high rate of lung cancer deaths in Maine, Eastern Maine Medical Center has begun an annual low-dose CT lung cancer screening program.
To qualify for the annual screening, candidates must be between 55 and 80 years old, have a 30 “pack-year” smoking history (the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years) – though they may have quit in the last 15 or fewer years – and are willing to accept treatment for lung cancer if identified. “Early detection is one of the most important aspects of fighting lung cancer, and this program could have a significant effect on the lives of many Mainers,” adds Dr. Klemperer.
Coverage for the screening by Medicare is still pending legislative approval, although some private insurers will cover the service. Those interested in entering into the screening program should talk to their primary care provider. For more information on the program, call Cardiothoracic Surgery of Maine at 973-5293.