Lung cancer awareness highlights needs for screenings

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Each year lung cancer kills more people than colon, prostate and breast cancer combined nationwide. However, if the cancer is found early enough it is very treatable.  That is why Mary Bird Perkins Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center is pushing anyone at high risk to get a CT Scan.

The Cancer Center is also the only one in the state to be recognized by the Lung Cancer Alliance as a Center of Excellence for lung cancer screening.

"We want to make lung cancer an early detectable disease just like breast cancer because earlier detection leads to better outcomes," said hematologist and medical oncologist Dr. Mary Stringfellow.

Lionel Kleinpeter is considered at high risk because he smoked most of his life.  Three months ago his doctor encouraged him to get screened.  While his lungs were clear, the scan revealed a tumor on his kidney.

"I went to a lung screening and look what happened," said Kleinpeter. "I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't want to [get screened], because if you do have a small amount of cancer and you don't want to know, you will find out the hard way."

A surgery removed the tumor, and his latest check up shows the cancer hasn't returned. Kleinpeter says there is no excuse not to get screened.

Some insurance policies cover the scan, and coverage may soon increase under new lung cancer screening guidelines and the new healthcare law.  Even without coverage the Cancer Center offers it for $99.

"My suggestion is simply just do it. It takes one hour. To roll the dice and maybe save you 15 years or more of your life, it's pretty good odds," said Kleinpeter.

People at high risk for lung cancer include anyone over the age of 55, with a history of heavy smoking or occupational exposure to chemicals.  Stringfellow also explains that smokers are at risk, even after they quit.

For more information on lung cancer screening, click here.  Also to find out your risk factors, you can take a quick online quiz, here.

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month.  To celebrate, the Cancer Center is holding several events, including a candle light vigil on Wednesday, November 13, at 6 p.m. There will also be a survivors luncheon on Friday, November, 15,  at 12 p.m. For more information, click here.

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