You've quit smoking. Congratulations! Now you're moving forward with a healthier life. Smoking is in the rearview mirror. Maybe it's even been a decade since you quit. However, while your smoking history might not be at the forefront of your mind, there are still steps you should take to protect your health, and maybe even save your life.
There are an estimated 9 million people in the United States who are at high risk for lung cancer. About half are former smokers—a group that often gets missed when it comes to talking about lung cancer screening. That's because lung cancer often isn't in the forefront of former smokers' minds and their physicians often don't think to discuss lung cancer screening with them. In some cases, a physician may not even know a patient has a smoking history that could make them high risk for lung cancer.
But for those like Kathy L., lung cancer screening can help detect cancer at an early stage, when it is more likely to be curable. In fact, early detection using low-dose CT scanning can decrease lung cancer mortality between 14 to 20 percent among people who are at high risk.
Kathy smoked for over 30 years, and learned about a lung cancer screening clinical trial through an advertisement on the radio. Although she had smoked, Kathy had no symptoms, and was physically active.
"I had no reason to suspect that there was anything wrong with me. I had a little shortness of breath, but nothing that seemed to be a problem," said Kathy.
Three days after receiving a low-dose CT scan, Kathy learned from her doctor that she had early-stage lung cancer. "I was number 42 in this clinical trial, but I was the first person who ended up having cancer. I proved the point of the trial," said Kathy.
Within two weeks, Kathy had successful surgery to remove the lung cancer nodule that was found through the low-dose CT scan.
In recognition of the tremendous potential of lung cancer screening, the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE initiative and The Ad Council have launched "Saved By The Scan," a new campaign that aims to help raise awareness about lung cancer screening and encourage high-risk individuals to learn more and talk to their doctor to find out if lung cancer screening is right for them.
If only half of the people who are at high risk were screened, approximately 15,000 lives would be saved. When lung cancer is caught before it spreads, the likelihood of surviving 5 years improves from 11 to 55 percent.
"I was so fortunate to have my cancer caught early. Anybody who has done research on cancer, knows that once the tumor starts to grow, it can spread throughout your body," said Kathy.
Following her diagnosis, Kathy has continued to tell those she knows that may be at risk for lung cancer, how important screening can be. "If you have lung cancer, you want to find out really early. If you have a scan, and there is no result, think of how reassuring that is," Kathy said.
LUNG FORCE is committed to defeating lung cancer and saving lives. We want to help those at high risk for lung cancer, like Kathy, take the first step in talking with their doctor about early detection through lung cancer screening.
To learn if you may be at high risk for lung cancer, visit SavedByTheScan.org to take our lung cancer screening eligibility quiz, or talk to your doctor to learn more. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with lung cancer, we are here to help. You're not in this alone.