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Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Annual lung cancer screenings approved for older smokers

November 15, 2013 News Releases

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the US. But up until recently, no screening methods had been deemed successful in detecting lung cancer at earlier stages. That all changed early this year, when the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that individuals with specific risk factors (see below) be screened annually after a study showed that low-dose CT scans can reduce lung cancer mortality by 20 percent in high-risk patients.

“Lung cancer kills more people annually than prostate, breast and colon cancers combined,” says Alicia McKelvey, MD, Main Line Health thoracic surgeon. “Prostate, breast and colon cancer all have well established and useful screening tests. Now, we have the potential to reduce deaths from lung cancer through early diagnosis, using screening CT’s.”

The low-dose CT scan of the lungs allows potential tumors to be diagnosed earlier, which increases the likelihood of a long-term cure. Although the radiation used during the screenings presents a small risk, the benefits far outweigh any potential consequences.

"It’s important to use low dose screening CT's for lung cancer in the appropriate patients," says Dr. McKelvey.

What determines a high-risk patient?

  • Smokers between ages 55–74 who have a 30-pack year history (one pack per day for 30 years) or more
  • Those who have quit within the past 15 years
  • Patients with a prior history of cancer or exposure to known lung carcinogens

If you fall into these categories, Dr. McKelvey recommends talking to your primary care doctor about getting screened.

Although lung cancer screening will help detect lung cancer earlier, the truth remains that the most effective way to avoid a lung cancer diagnosis is to never start smoking. Visit our website to learn more about Main Line Health’s smoking cessation classes.

About Main Line Health

Founded in 1985,Main Line Health is a not-for-profit health system serving portions of Philadelphia and its western suburbs. Main Line Health’s commitment—to deliver advanced medicine to treat and cure disease while also playing an important role in prevention and disease management as well as training physicians and other health care providers—reflects our intent to keep our community and ourselves well ahead. A team of more than 10,000 employees and 2,000 physicians care for patients throughout the Main Line Health system.

At Main Line Health’s core are four of the region’s most respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—as well as one of the nation’s recognized facilities for rehabilitative medicine, Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital.

Main Line Health also includes Mirmont Treatment Center for drug and alcohol recovery; Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice, which includes skilled home health care, hospice and home infusion services; Main Line Health Centers, primary and specialty care, lab and radiology, and other outpatient services located in Broomall, Collegeville, Concordville, Exton, King of Prussia and Newtown Square; Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, a biomedical research organization; and Main Line HealthCare,one of the region’s largest multispecialty physician networks.

Main Line Health is the recipient of numerous awards for quality care and service, including System Magnet® designation, the nation’s highest distinction for nursing excellence and the Mid-Atlantic Alliance for Performance Excellence (MAAPE) Excellence Award. Main Line Health is committed to creating an environment of diversity, respect and inclusion and has proudly embraced the American Hospital Association’s #123forEquity Pledge to Act to eliminate disparities in care. We are dedicated to advancing patient-centered care, education and research to help our community stay healthy.