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Participants of Cancer Screening Study Receive Free CT Scans for Lung Cancer

Posted: Nov. 20, 2014

Men and women age 50 and older who are current or former smokers and who have smoked one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 or more years are eligible and encouraged to apply to participate in an ongoing international study that is focused on using Computed Tomography scanning ("CT scan" or "CAT scan") to detect lung cancer in its early stages in high-risk patients.

The study, South Nassau Communities Hospital’s Early Action Lung Cancer Project (SNCH-ELCAP) is being conducted by Shahriyour Andaz, MD, FACS, director of thoracic oncology, and Stewart Fox, MD, FACS, director of cardiothoracic surgery, and is a continuation of South Nassau’s participation in the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (IELCAP), a collaborative group of international experts on lung cancer and related diseases.

Participants selected for the study will receive two screening CT scans, done one year apart, free of charge. The scans are performed using a state-of-the-art imaging system that produces superior scan image quality, providing study participants with the most comprehensive CT screening available. The CT-scan takes about 10 minutes and is able to detect nodules (tissue growths) in the lungs long before a chest X-ray would detect them.

The results of the scans are sent to the participants as well as their physicians. Recommendations for follow-up may range from an annual CT scan to more immediate diagnostic evaluations. Study participants are financially responsible for recommended diagnostic evaluations and clinical care, but remain in the ELCAP study for annual scans.

IELCAP research has found that lung cancers detected through screening CT scans have an estimated 80 percent cure rate compared to a 10 percent cure rate for lung cancers detected in the clinical setting. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), lung cancer accounts for about 27% of all cancer deaths and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer mainly occurs in older people. About 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older; fewer than 2% of all cases are found in people younger than 45. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 70. Overall, the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 13; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 16. These numbers include both smokers and non-smokers. For smokers the risk is much higher, while for non-smokers the risk is lower. Black men are about 20% more likely to develop lung cancer than white men. The rate is about 10% lower in black women than in white women. Both black and white women have lower rates than men, but the gap is closing. The lung cancer rate has been dropping among men over the past 2 decades and has just recently begun to drop in women.

The ACS projects that in 2014 lung cancer will be the cause of 159,260 deaths (86,930 men and 72,330 women). Because lung cancer does not have any symptoms in its earliest stages, it is rarely discovered until the disease has progressed to a late, almost untreatable stage. In contrast with its late-stage, low cure rate, it has been shown that lung cancers found in the early stage are highly curable.

“Approximately 87% of lung cancers are directly related to tobacco smoke,” said Dr. Andaz. “The risk of developing lung cancer is directly affected by how much a person smokes, and for how long they have smoked.” Dr. Andaz cautions that people need to understand that even if they have stopped smoking they are still at higher risk for lung cancer than a non-smoker. “If you have stopped smoking by age 35, your risk of lung cancer decreases by 90%, and even stopping later in life can reduce the chances of developing lung cancer and other smoking-related conditions.” Information about smoking cessation and counseling is provided at ELCAP appointments to participants who are smokers.

For more information or to apply for the study, call the South Nassau Communities Hospital’s Clinical Research Department (516) 632-3636.