New recommendations could come for lung cancer screenings

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge resident Carol Brown was diagnosed with colon cancer back in 2005.  Early screening and chemotherapy helped her beat the disease, and she has been cancer free for more than six years.  However, as a former heavy smoker she was concerned another cancer may ravage her body.

"It's an experience I don't want to repeat if I can avoid it," said Brown.

Even though she has not touched a cigarette since 2001, Brown knew her 40 years of smoking put her at high risk for lung cancer which is the third most common cancer in the U.S.  So, she got screened at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center.

"It's the number one cause of cancer death in Louisiana and worldwide.  There are about 32 cases per 100,000 population. That puts us in the top 10 percent in the county as far as lunch cancer incidents," said pulmonologist and critical care specialist Dr. Brad Vincent.

Because lung cancer has a high death rate, and because symptoms usually do not appear until the cancer has already advanced, The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force could soon recommend every person at high risk for cancer get a yearly scan.

The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine.  Among other duties, the USPSTF rates cancer screenings from A to D, with an A rating being the highest.  These ratings are based on the urgency of a screening as well as benefits versus risks.

In its latest draft recommendation, the panel looks to give lung cancer screening a B rating, putting it on the same level as breast cancer screening.  It also recommends that anyone at high risk get a yearly scan.

Experts expect the panel to go through with an official recommendation after a public comment period of the draft recommendation ends on August 26.  Find the draft statement here.

Under the Affordable Healthcare Law, any screening with an A or B rating must be covered by health insurance.

According to Vincent, those at high risk are people who smoke currently or people with a 30 pack-year or more history of smoking who are ages 55 to 79 years and have smoked within the past 15 years.

Mary Bird Perkins the only local cancer center to offer lung cancer screening, which it began offering to high risk patients about 9 months ago.  The cost is $99.

Screenings are done with low level cat scans, similar to an x-ray, and take about 15 minutes.  The scans reveal any spots or lesions on the lungs, giving doctors a chance to detect and treat cancer earlier.

Carol's scan came back clear, and she says getting the scan done is worth the peace of mind.

For information on the screenings at Mary Bird Perkins, or to make an appointment, call (225) 215-1515.

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