Now may be the time to get a lung cancer screening - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Now may be the time to get a lung cancer screening

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Many of us are good about having a yearly physical, seeing our dentist regularly, or having our eyes checked. But when was the last time you thought about having your lungs screened? 

Now may be your time. Just this week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force approved new lung cancer screening guidelines for older adults, putting lung cancer back in the news.

But it's something Evansville's Tracy Sparks hasn't been able to keep off her mind.

 "It's still hard for me to believe he's gone," Sparks says.

Two years ago, Sparks' husband died of lung cancer at the age of 55. She recently underwent a low-dose CT screening at Deaconess.  

"I know I'm at risk for lung cancer. I have a family history. I'm a former smoker, and I wanted to follow up on this," Sparks says.

"Most lung cancer, they call it the silent killer because usually it's not detected until it's stage 4," says Mary Gaffney.

Gaffney is a lung cancer nurse navigator and she says lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the Tri-State.

In the U.S., 160,000 people die from it every year. It's now recommended that adults ages 55 to 74 who are at high risk for lung cancer be screened with low-dose computed tomography or CT.

To be considered high risk, a patient should be between 55 and 74, currently smokes or have quit in the past 15 years. They should also be the equivalent of a pack-a day smoker for the past 30 years.

The low-dose CT is an imaging technology that uses low doses of radiation. It requires an order from your doctor. No IV or fasting, and it takes about five minutes.

Its estimated low-dose CT scans could prevent eight to 22,000 lung cancer deaths per year.

"I think people are scared to have the procedure because the chance of knowing they have lung cancer. But I think people need to be aware. If you've got it, let's catch it early," Gaffney says.

As for Sparks, her results came back negative for lung cancer. Now she's encouraging others to talk to their doctors about getting the screening themselves.

Before you get screened, here are some numbers you should know. We learned roughly one in four patients will have results that require a closer look with additional tests. Of those patients, nearly one in 25 will be diagnosed with lung cancer.

The test is only for heavy smokers. Studies have shown no great benefit for light smokers and non-smokers.

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