House Calls

SUM 2017

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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Thanks to the screening and early detection of the disease, by July, she was recovering from a robotic, minimally invasive surgical lesion removal, and, less than a year later, celebrated her 60th birthday cancer-free. More than 150,000 people in the U.S. die annually from lung cancer; however, Turner's story is one of thousands across the country helping to reduce that number. The disease rarely presents itself with symptoms until near-terminal stages, making the ability to discover it at its onset critical to a cure. The low-dose CT scan—which doctors began using as a tool to detect lung cancer in 2011—is helping do just that, explains Roper St. Francis affiliated thoracic surgeon Elizabeth Kline. In fact, studies show that up to 20 percent fewer deaths from the disease occur nationally when patients are screened using the CT lung scan versus a traditional X-ray. "When the medical community realized that the mortality rate from lung cancer could drop that significantly, it lit a fire under us all," says Dr. Kline, noting that the preventative measure has been rapidly adopted over the past six years. Here, she shares what to expect from this increasingly common cancer screening. HOW IT WORKS Any tool to fight lung cancer is welcome news: according to the American Cancer Society, the disease is responsible for 25 percent of cancer deaths in the country, making it the deadliest form around. In large part, that's because early symptoms of the disease like coughing and general malaise can be easily misattributed. More recognizable signs like wheezing and coughing up blood typically don't surface until the condition is more advanced, and at that stage, it is often untreatable. Traditionally, doctors administered diagnostic CT (computed tomography) scans only when these outward symptoms appeared. The low-dose CT scan— which uses the same technology at a lower radiation setting—offers high-risk patients a screening far sooner. The scan uses more radiation than an X-ray (it's equivalent to about 15 traditional X-rays, says Dr. Kline) but less than a traditional CT scan, and captures an image of the lungs in two-millimeter increments. Though the resulting photo is lower in resolution than a regular CT scan's picture, it's more than sufficient for identifying abnormalities within the lungs. "Whereas an X-ray can show a dime-sized lesion, the low- dose CT scan illuminates problem areas the size of a grain of rice," says Dr. Kline. If an abnormality is found, the next step is to learn more. Additional screenings at three-month, six-month, or one-year intervals may be recommended to determine whether a nodule—a small swelling or aggregation of cells—is benign or continues to grow. When the latter is suspected, a biopsy (or tissue sample) is administered. If lung cancer is diagnosed, next steps may include treatment via surgery, chemotherapy, or high-dose radiation. "It used to be that only a quarter of diagnosed lung cancer patients were operable," says Dr. Kline. "Thanks to the low-dose CT scan, we're now able to treat more and more patients at stage one and two, when they are still curable. That's a big win in saving people's lives." P H O T O G R A P H S ( D R . K L I N E & S P R I N G T U R N E R ) B Y M A R G R E T W O O D 36 { summer 2017 } h o u s e c a l l s M ount Pleasant resident Spring Turner was already a breast cancer survivor when she learned she had cancerous cells in her lungs. In March 2016, based on her smoking history, Turner's primary care doctor suggested she have a low-dose chest CT scan: a non-invasive procedure that creates an image of a person's lungs and chest. Following the scan and a subsequent biopsy, Turner was diagnosed with stage one lung cancer. Dr. Elizabeth Kline "Thanks to the low-dose CT scan, we're now able to treat more and more patients at stage one and two, when they are still curable." —DR. ELIZABETH KLINE Because the low-dose CT scan exposes the body to potentially harmful radiation, it's currently only recommended for patients in the highest risk category for lung cancer. Consider a scan if you: Are between 55 and 77 years of age Smoked a pack a day for 30 years or the equivalent (two packs/day for 15 years, or three packs/day for 10 years) The criteria to qualify for a scan may expand in the future, notes Dr. Kline. Someday, it may be offered to people beyond age 77 and/or as an infrequent preventative screening for younger patients or lighter smokers. Are You Eligible for the Scan?

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