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Lung cancer screening now standard of care at UTMC

In 2010, 160,000 people in the United States died from a cancer more common than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined.

“Lung cancer is the primary cancer killer in the United States and is especially prevalent in Ohio,” said Dr. James Willey, the George Isaac Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at The University of Toledo. “Eighty-five percent of the patients I see are too advanced for a surgical cure and are going to die within a year or two.”

That’s why the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center at The University of Toledo Medical Center has been working for years to improve its lung cancer screening methods. Just this year, the U.S. Preventative Health Services Task Force announced lung cancer screening as standard of care, and UTMC already was prepared to begin offering lung cancer screening to select individuals.

On Tuesday, July 8, the Dana Cancer Center will offer these screenings to employees between the ages of 55 and 80 who smoke more than 30 packs of cigarettes a year or have quit within the last 15 years. Screening is most effective in high-risk patients, as opposed to those with low risk of lung cancer who may not benefit from the screening.

Because lung cancer screening was made standard of care this year, only a few private insurance companies reimburse the cost. Fortunately, because of the Affordable Care Act, all private insurance companies will be required to cover this cost starting January 2015.

“In the meantime, UT is offering the screening at a cost of $99, which covers all costs for the patient — the CAT scan, the interpretation by the radiologist, and a brief consultation with a pulmonologist to interpret the results and give them some initial recommendations,” Willey said. “Beyond the $99, there is no other cost to them.”

In 2010, 220,000 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States, and only 60,000 of those individuals survived. When it comes to lung cancer, early stage diagnosis is key to survival. The problem is that due to lack of symptoms, most lung cancer is found too late.

“It starts in the middle of the lung, and there are not a lot of pain fibers or anything else in the middle of the lung,” Willey said. “There is a lot of room to expand, so the tumor can just push other tissues aside and keep growing without giving a lot of symptoms.”

Patients who wish to participate in the screenings, which will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. the first Tuesday each month, will receive expert care from pulmonary specialists, radiologists, cancer specialists, surgeons and nurses.

To learn more about the screening program or to schedule a screening appointment, call 419.383.3927.