CT scans recommended for early lung cancer detection

CT scans recommended for early lung cancer detection
(Source: KPLC)
(Source: KPLC)

There is a new recommendation that long-time smokers get annual CT scans to screen for lung cancer, even if they do not have symptoms. One Lake Arthur woman says she is thankful for the early screening that found her cancer before it spread.

It has been three weeks since 56-year-old Mona Deshotel had her last cigarette. "That was something I had to have," she said. "It is an addiction; it's a bad addiction. Hard to quit, very hard to quit."

Mona became a smoker 38 years ago. She tried to quit, but was never successful. "The longer you smoke, the harder it is to quit," she said.

Then, around Christmas time, Mona heard about a giveaway of a different sort: a free CT lung cancer screening. "All the odds were against me," she said. "Why not get it done?"

Knowing her risk for lung cancer, Mona entered the giveaway. "I register for everything and win nothing!" she said.

But this time, she did win. It became something much bigger than a screening: it became a chance to live longer after a cancerous nodule was found and removed from her left lung. "I know it would have ended up as full blown lung cancer," said Mona, "and then where do you go from there after that?"

Memorial Medical Group pulmonologist, Dr. Ben Thompson, says Mona fits the criteria for the National Lung Screening Trial.  Participants, ages 55 to 74, smoked an average of a pack a day for 30 years.

The study compared the effects of two tests to detect lung cancer: some got a low-dose CT scan once a year for three years, others got a standard chest X-ray.

In the CT group, death rates dropped by 20 percent. "They have an initial scan, and then they would be scanned annually," said Dr. Thompson, "unless we found something and then there might be additional scans."

The low-dose CT scan process is simple. You lie on a bed that slowly moves into the center of a large X-ray machine that takes 3-D images of the lungs as it moves around you.  "Very painless, very quick," said Mona, "nothing to it."

While Mona's nodule tested positive for cancer, most are non-cancerous, or benign. "Of the nodules that are detected, which is what we call these," said Dr. Thompson, "about 94 percent of the nodules detected were benign."

But for the percentage of patients like Mona, the early screening could mean the difference between life or death.

Mona swears she will not smoke again, and she is looking at her future as a promising second chance. "Not just happy," she said, "I will have a happy and healthy lifestyle."

Physician referrals are required to have a CT lung cancer screening. Talk to your doctor if it is something you want to undergo.

Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer and affects both smokers and non-smokers. Show your support for those affected by lung cancer by being a part of the Southwest Louisiana Free to Breathe Walk/Run. It is Saturday, March 22 at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Click here for registration information.

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