Following the signs to detect lung cancer early

Low-dose CT Scan can help detect lung cancer early

Low-dose CT Scan can help detect lung cancer early

Roger Cross hasn’t let lung cancer slow him down. At age 70, he owns and operates his own business transporting heavy machinery parts to manufacturers across the country.

“It’s all about how you look at cancer,” Cross said. “You can let it get you down or not. I choose to go on; and the more I do, the better I feel.”

Cross was a smoker for 35 years, averaging two packs of cigarettes a day. He quit more than 15 years ago after a health scare. He thought he was having a heart attack, however cardiac testing came back clear and he never smoked again.

“It was an easy thing to do,” Cross said about quitting smoking, “but you’ve got to want to quit.”

Past and current smokers are considered high risk for lung cancer if they have smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or more or two packs of cigarettes a day for 15 years.

“We know that smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer,” said Jenny Frantz, R.N. Frantz is a thoracic patient navigator and coordinator of Norton Healthcare’s CT Lung Screening Program.

A sign to seek answers 

Cross received a low-dose CT lung scan after passing a downtown Louisville billboard promoting similar prevention and detection services. The scan is a painless screening tool that uses high-speed, multi-slice computed tomography (CT) technology to identify suspicious lesions that can be a sign of cancer.

“I had passed that billboard three or four times,” Cross said. “The next time I passed it, it was like the message stuck on my windshield.”

He then happened to see the Norton Cancer Institute Mobile Prevention Center doing screenings at Jefferson Mall and inquired about lung screenings. While the mobile unit was not equipped to do CT screenings, staff gave him the phone number to Norton Healthcare’s Low-Dose Lung CT Screening Program.

He scheduled a screening, which uncovered a small spot on his lung that turned out to be cancer. He had surgery on April 4, 2014, and underwent four chemotherapy treatments at Norton Audubon Hospital.

“I have no doubt in my mind that God put that sign there for me to see,” Cross said.

Low-Dose CT scans offer better detection

CT scans can show early lung cancer that may be too small to be detected by a traditional chest X-ray, and this can make a difference in a patient’s chance of survival.

“Chest X-rays can identify lung cancers about the size of a dime, whereas low-dose spiral CT scans can reveal lung abnormalities the size of a grain of rice,” Frantz said. “This is a crucial difference. The smaller the tumor is when it is detected, the higher chance of survival.”

CT scans are a quick, painless and noninvasive procedure and take less than a minute to complete. Frantz says some patients are reluctant to be screened because of their smoking history; however, early detection can help save their life.

“It’s very important to take care of yourself and your health,” Cross said.

Along with the screening program, Norton Healthcare offers smoking cessation counseling and resources.

“Our goal is to screen people for lung cancer and help them with their nicotine addiction at the same time, possibly identifying lung cancer at an early stage and hopefully triggering a lifestyle change,” Frantz said.

Do you know your risk for lung cancer?

Only about 15% of lung cancers are diagnosed in the early stages when lung cancer is more likely to be cured with surgical treatment. Early detection is key to effective treatment.

Ninety percent of lung cancers are caused by smoking. Smoking is by far the largest contributing factor for lung cancer. Someone who has smoked for 30-40 years is 20-40 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

Ten percent of lung cancers occur in people who have never smoked. These lung cancers can be caused by other risk factors, including previous lung disease, exposure to asbestos, radon gas, or prolonged contact with other environmental toxins.

Take our risk assessment to find out your risk factors and see if a lung cancer screening is recommended for you.


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