*This post was written by Marie Borsellino, B.S.N., R.N., O.C.N., oncology nurse navigator for the Managing Cancer at Work Program.

X-ray of lungs

Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor in the development of lung cancer. It is estimated that as many as 90 percent of lung cancer diagnoses could be prevented if cigarette smoking were eliminated. Exposure to certain industrial substances such as arsenic, some organic chemicals, radon, asbestos, radiation exposure, air pollution, tuberculosis, and environmental tobacco smoke in non-smokers also increases a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.

What can I do? Be aware of new Screening Guidelines recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force outlined below:

• Yearly screening with a low-dose CT scan is recommended instead of screening with a chest x-ray or no screening for people age 55 to 74 who have smoked for 30 pack years or more or who have quit within the past 15 years. Medicare just recently made a proposal to reimburse these screenings for eligible patients.

• CT screening is not recommended for people who have smoked for less than 30 pack years, are younger than 55 or older than 74, have quit smoking more than 15 years ago, or have a serious condition that could affect cancer treatment or shorten a person's life.

• Talk with your health care provider about your personal risk especially if you have a family history, have had other cancers, or have smoked fewer years than the guideline had established.

• Make sure you have your screening done at a facility with experience in screening for and treating lung cancer.

• Visit a facility with established guidelines that are in line with the best established practices for screening for lung cancer.

• Most importantly, if you smoke stop smoking and seek help in quitting if you need to. Johns Hopkins employees have a smoking cessation program available.

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