TAMPA, Fla. — Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It's estimated there are a quarter of a million new cases each year and every year, 130,000 people will die of the disease.
But if lung cancer is caught early, the mortality rate goes down significantly. Here's the thing, there is a simple screening for it. It's a low-dose CT scan, but most people either don't know about it or don't realize they're eligible.
Dr. Lary Robinson is a thoracic surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center. "Well the screening is a CT scan and it's really simple. It takes about 10 minutes on the table, it's a single breath hold. It's painless. You're in and out in 30 minutes or less."
He says 14 and a half million people in the US are eligible to be screened, but only about 5% will do it. And when you just look at Florida. The numbers are worse. "There's a million people in Florida who are eligible to get CT scan screening and only 3% get this done."
So, who's eligible? If you are over the age of 50 and a 20-pack-year smoker, meaning a pack a day for 20 years, or two packs a day for ten years, you have 20 pack-years. All you have to do is tell your doctor you want the screening. Dr. Robinson says the key is to do it even if you're feeling good.
"That's because lung cancer in general is silent and when you start developing some type of symptoms from it, it's usually advanced, so the only thing we can hope to do is be able to find it early."