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Yes, You Should Quit Smoking. But Don’t Forget About Lung Cancer Screening.

April 08, 2021

Dr. Dilpreet Kaur definitely wants you to quit smoking. She wants you to sign up for the smoking cessation classes at Windham Hospital this fall. She’s providing help with nicotine replacement therapy and medications that curb smoking cravings.

But along with efforts at smoking cessation, the Windham Hospital pulmonologist wants you screened for lung cancer. She recommends screening if you are older than 50, have been a pack-a-day (or more) smoker for at least 20 years, or if you quit smoking within the last 15 years. Even if you feel completely fine!

Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer of both women and men in the United States, accounting for approximately 150,000 deaths in 2019.

“Low-dose CT screening among those at high risk for lung cancer reduces the lung cancer death rate by up to 20 percent,” she said.

And just as a mammogram can find breast cancer before any lump is felt or a colonoscopy can detect polyps in a symptom-free patient, a CT scan of the lungs can detect cancer even before you have any symptoms.

If people wait until they have symptoms, like worsening cough, blood in cough, hoarseness of voice or significant weight loss, the cancer has typically already progressed to Stage 3 or 4. But catching lung cancer at Stage 1 and removing it surgically leads to a significant reduction in the mortality rate. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer drops dramatically from a Stage 1 diagnosis (68 percent to 92 percent survival) to a Stage 4 diagnosis (0 percent to 10 percent survival).

Guidelines for this proactive screening just changed in March,  Dr. Kaur said. The change suggests a much higher number of people will benefit from screening.

She and her colleagues are working to spread awareness among both the public and healthcare providers about the importance of screening. During the pandemic, people put off having annual physicals and essential health screenings out of fear of catching COVID. Dr. Kaur wants everyone to make up for the lost time and get those appointments on the calendar.

“It can save your life,” she said.