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Screenings for lung cancer are not just for smokers

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American Cancer Society Center

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the United States.

The risk of developing lung cancer in the Sioux City area is higher, in some zip codes than the 12-year state average, per the Iowa Cancer Registry Data. It is one of the top cancer diagnoses in our state according to the June E. Nylen Cancer Center.

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be more than 235,000 new cases of lung cancer in the U.S. this year. Of that number, it is estimated nearly 132,000 will result in death. Lung cancer makes up almost 25% of all cancer deaths.

Lung cancer is commonly attributed to smoking or secondhand smoke, but exposure to radon and asbestos are also top risks. The American Cancer Association says lung cancer kills more people than prostate, colon and breast cancer combined, but when caught early, it is more treatable.

If you wait until you have symptoms of lung cancer, like a prolonged cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, you lower your chances of surviving.

"Early stages of lung cancer, have a better prognosis than those that are identified later. And that's why we want to push lung cancer screenings for people. In the state of Iowa, about 13% of all new cancer diagnoses in the year 2021 are projected to be that of lung cancer," said Jamie Wright, NP, Siouxland Community Health Center.

It is important to meet with your primary care physician to review your risks of lung cancer like smoking or radon exposure. If your doctor sees any risk, they will likely send for a low-dose CT scan to screen for cancer in your lungs.

"It is a very quick, brief CT scan that has low amounts of radiation to give us detailed images of the lungs. This is a brief scan, there's no preparation for it, just come in. And it takes about two minutes," said Makayla Davidson, radiation oncology manager

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screenings for people age 50 to 80, who are in fairly good health; currently smoke, or have quit in the past 15 years.

"They also need to receive smoking cessation counseling from the provider that is ordering the scan to make sure that they understand what the benefits and risks are of quitting smoking and receiving the test. And these guidelines are set forth by Medicare. So if a patient has a different insurance carrier, it's best to look into their specific policy to see if there are other guidelines," said Davidson.

With a five-year survival rate of only 5%, if caught in late stages, lung cancer screening isn't something to put off.

Wright says it is good to check with your insurance provider what is covered when it comes to the different types of cancer screenings.

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Claire Bradshaw

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