Generally, chest x-rays are used to diagnose patients who already show signs of lung cancer. Many times, the disease has already reached an advanced stage by the time it is discovered. However, patients at high risk for lung cancer can now get early detection screenings which will help discover any signs of lung cancer before symptoms develop.
Who Is High Risk?
There are a few factors that come into play when deciding who is a candidate for lung screenings. In order to be considered, the patient must meet the following requirements:
- Current or former smoker
- AND in the age group from 55 to 74 years
- AND with a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (this means one pack a day for 30 years, two packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
Other factors may come into play, and the risk of lung cancer is different for every person, so be sure to discuss early screenings with your doctor.
The screening process is fast–just a few seconds is all it takes. In order to acquire the most accurate image, patients are asked to hold their breath while the x-ray is taken. Following the x-ray, the patient will meet with a specialist to review the screening. If the result is negative, it is recommended to go in for another screening once a year for the next two years. Also, it is highly recommended to quit smoking during that time (or before, for that matter). If the result of the screening is positive, additional tests or follow-ups will be required to determine if it is lung cancer or another problem altogether.
Screening is not a substitute for quitting smoking. The most effective way anyone can reduce their risk of lung cancer is to avoid tobacco. Riverside offers Smokeless®, a program to help people quit smoking on the Peninsula. For information and help to quit smoking, call Holly Hicks at (757) 875-7533.
Visit us online to schedule an appointment near you!