Health screenings are used in many aspects of the medical profession to prevent the progression of diseases, to assess symptoms and to try to prevent the development of illness. One of the more common areas where screening is used is in lung health.
An estimated 154,050 Americans were expected to die from lung cancer in 2018, which accounts for around 25 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the American Lung Association.
Common Lung Disorders & Their Symptoms
Smoking is a leading cause of chronic respiratory diseases, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These diseases are major conditions of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD and lung cancer could become uncommon in future generations if smoking rates were reduced, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms of these lung disorders include, but are not limited to, worsening cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, and back pain, among others. The symptoms are not very specific, and can often be attributed to other ailments. This makes screening all too important.
Below is a brief explanation of each condition.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Lung conditions marked by the inability to exhale normally. Chronic bronchitis: A type of COPD distinguished by a chronic cough. Emphysema: Lung damage that allows air to be trapped in your lungs and reduces the patient’s ability to blow out air. Lung cancer can develop in any part of the lungs. Your treatment options depend on the type, location, and the spread of lung cancer in your body.
How Early Detection Saves Lives
Early detection for these diseases is crucial to any patient’s health. With any disease, the earlier it is detected, the earlier it can be fought. With lung disorders, it is highly beneficial for patients who have a history of smoking or chronic lung issues to get tested regularly.
Depending on the stage of lung cancer, treatment options include radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, and medications. The earlier the stage, the more options your doctor has to treat the condition effectively.
Science Supports Low-Dose CT Scans as Lung Cancer Screening
While the reduction of smoking rates is the best solution for lung diseases, early screening is the best way to catch the diseases early, and to reduce the chances of death. A newly accepted method of screening for lung cancer is an annual screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT).
Quitting smoking can be one of the most challenging addictions to overcome. But it can also the most beneficial.
According to the Center for Disease Control, on average 443,000 people die every year as a result of cigarette smoking and another 8.6 million live with a disease attributed to smoking. Tobacco companies have dedicated countless hours and funds toward finding the perfect amount of nicotine to keep consumers addicted. If you are one of the lucky few that is able to quit smoking then you have already given yourself a longer and healthier lifestyle.
But if you are or were a long-term smoker, then there are still health risks that you should be conscious of, and give proper medical attention to.
Common Medical Imaging Tests Ex-Smokers May Need
Below is a list of some medical imaging procedures that former cigarette smokers should consider having performed in order to determine the damaging effects that smoking may have had on their health.
CT Scan / CAT Scan
A CT Scan can be beneficial for a former smoker in that it examines the organs and structures of the chest cavity. Since the area of the body that is most affected by cigarette smoking is the lungs, examining all areas of the pulmonary system is essential. By using X-ray and computer technology, CT-scans provide cross-sectional images of the lung, liver and heart tissues. CT scans are also useful in diagnosing cancer and guiding biopsy procedures in the event that your doctor finds something that needs further examination. Screening for Lung Cancer with Low-Dose CT is now recommended annually for certain former or current heavy smokers aged 55-80 years. Doctors Imaging offers the test for $99.00 and you can call to schedule after you have a doctor’s order. If the cost of the test is a problem, call Doctors Imaging and ask to make special arrangements.
Another harmful effect of long-term cigarette addiction is the narrowing and damage to the body’s blood vessels. This is a dangerous effect because it can lead to stroke and heart attack. By having an MRI procedure performed, images of the blood vessels in the heart, brain, kidneys, aorta, and extremities can be properly seen and examined.
Many think that ultrasounds are just for pregnancy, but ultrasounds are non-invasive and so detailed today that they can provide four-dimensional images of the internal cavities. Ultrasounds are useful if you experience chest pains or heart palpitations, both common in long-term smokers, as ultrasounds are beneficial for the examination of the blood flow and heart valve functions.
What’s the Next Healthy Step for You?
The vast majority of these procedures are relatively non-invasive and can provide fast and detailed results. If you have already taken the first step in obtaining a healthier lifestyle by quitting smoking, then give yourself another benefit, get screened for lung cancer with a CT scan and learn what your body needs to be healthier and live longer.
CT scans are used by doctors in order to create detailed cross-sectional images of the internal tissues and organs. By using the lowest possible dose of radiation in combination with computer technology, doctors can give patients clear and accurate diagnoses. For those who have never had this particular imaging procedure performed, this preview might help calm your fears or concerns.
What Is a Low-Dose CT Scan?
A CT scan uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology in order to create images. X-rays use a small amount of radiation in order to show the body’s internal structures and produce images. On average, Americans are exposed to 3.1 mSv of radiation annually. CT scans use a slightly higher amount than that and qualified radiologists use the lowest possible dosage based on the size of a patient.
What Happens During the Exam?
CT scanners have the appearance of a tube with a spinning detector that collects the images your radiologist will use. For some procedures, the radiologist may ask that you abstain from eating for one or more hours prior to your examination.
Your CT scan will proceed as follows:
While lying on your back, a table will move your body slowly, feet-first, through the machine.
If needed, your doctor may request contrast for your CT scan procedure. Contrast is a substance that is used during imaging procedures to better understand your medical condition. Contrast material will be administered through an IV or by drinking a flavored substance.
As you are moved through the machine, your technologist will be able to see, hear and speak to you.
The images and report are created after the procedure is performed, and you and your personal doctor can review the results together to determine your treatment options. You may feel a warm sensation or a metallic taste after an injection.
You should inform your doctor if you have medication allergies or an allergy to iodine. You should also let your doctor know if you suffer from diabetes or any heart, thyroid or kidney conditions as contrast material may sometimes cause an adverse reaction in patients with these conditions. Otherwise, CT scans are non-invasive and painless and can provide incredibly useful information for your doctors to use in providing the best treatment options for you.
Doctors Imaging is now offering low-dose CT lung cancer screenings, recommended annually for those at high risk for lung cancer, for the low cost of just $99. Lung screening is performed without contrast. To schedule your appointment, use our online appointment form or call 504-883-8111.
Smoking is one of the worst vices to have. Thankfully, over the past 50 years, research and education about the dangers of smoking have become widespread. Still, knowledge of the danger is only part of the battle. For current smokers, it’s never too late to quit and there are several medical options that can support your efforts to quit.
Nicotine Patches and Gum Can Ease Your Cravings
Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical additive in cigarettes that keeps you coming back for more. In some ways, nicotine is as deadly as the dangerous carcinogens found in cigarettes. Patches and gum provide just enough nicotine to avoid immediately harm you. But be careful: You can actually overdose on nicotine. While using these products, you may still be addicted to nicotine. Nicotine gum has proven effective at stopping people in the beginning of their transition out of smoking cigarettes. In the beginning, you are taking in about the same amount of nicotine. And then you slowly decrease your levels in an effort to wean yourself off the habit of smoking. For many smokers, one of the hardest parts of quitting is losing that oral habit, so chewing gum can be helpful in keeping that bit of routine. However, be careful not to give in to the cravings when you are using nicotine replacement products. The overload of nicotine to your system can have harmful side effects.
Prescriptions Can Assist With Nicotine Withdrawal
Some smokers have found relief from the addiction through nicotine replacement therapy found with certain prescription medicines. The two major brands of anti-smoking medications are Zyban and Chantix. Zyban contains the active ingredient Bupropion and helps to lessen the urge to smoke. Chantix contains Varenicline which helps with nicotine withdrawal. If a user decides to smoke again, the medicine in Chantix blocks the nicotine from cigarettes. These medicines have serious side effects such as nausea, sleep disturbance, constipation, flatulence, and vomiting as well as headaches, abnormal dreams, and taste disturbance as well as some psychological problems.
Electronic Cigarettes and Vaping Products Are Unproven for Helping You Quit Nicotine
The sale of electronic cigarettes or e-cigs has exploded in the last 3-5 years. The products allow users to enjoy the sensation of smoking without tobacco. Early e-cigarettes were filled with a solution of propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings which are superheated to a breathable vapor. Like the patch and gum, the amount of nicotine in the e-cig solution is supposed to decrease your smoking until you don’t have the urge anymore. Electronic cigarettes have come under fire because of the health risks of the chemicals in the solutions. Additionally, some critics say that the product simply acts as a stall before actually quitting.
“Since no single product or substance has been associated with the illness, persons should consider not using e-cigarettes while this investigation is ongoing, especially those purchased from sources other than authorized retailers (e.g., e-cigarette products with (tetrahydrocannabinol) THC) and those modified in a manner not intended by the manufacturer.”
“Adult smokers who are attempting to quit should consult with their health care provider and use proven treatments. Irrespective of these findings, e-cigarettes should never be used by youths, young adults, pregnant women, and adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”
On Sept 9, 2019, the FDA warned Juul Labs that it had illegally marketed its vaping products as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes without approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the agency said. In a warning letter to the e-cigarette company, the FDA raised concerns over Juul’s outreach efforts, including testimony that a representative told high school students that Juul was “totally safe,” The New York Times reports. The letter comes amid the public health crisis over e-cigarettes, with more than 400 cases of potentially vaping-related illness reported in the U.S.
Never buy electronic cigarettes and related products from unauthorized sellers because of the risk that vaping ingredients can trigger fatal lung disease in otherwise healthy people.
Find Support From Your Doctor, Peers and Others
If you are interested in using medical smoking cessation products, speak to your doctor about your quitting solutions before you start. Weaning yourself off of any addiction is extremely difficult. That’s why if you are starting this journey, you should definitely find support. Reach out to an online community and start avoiding same activities that you may associate with smoking. The benefits of quitting smoking, no matter when, can be felt immediately. Former smokers report better moods, better digestion, better taste, better sleep patterns and not to mention the long-term health benefits.
The Next Step: Lung Cancer Screenings
By using low-dose CT scans as lung cancer screenings, radiologists are able to determine the presence of lung cancer better than ever before. Because of our technologically advanced low-dose CT technology, our radiologists’ experience, and highly trained staff, patients of Doctors Imaging can be assured that their lung cancer screening is thorough. Doctors Imaging often sees the damage of smoking on the body and encourages you to enjoy the benefits of quitting smoking as soon as possible. We recommend that if you are over 50 and used to or still smoke cigarettes or tobacco, you should consider a lung screening. The earlier lung cancer is detected and treatment has begun, the higher your chances are of survival.
Emphysema is just one of several conditions under the umbrella term “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” COPD is a condition that causes the lungs to have difficulty taking in air. COPD includes conditions like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. Emphysema is the deadliest of the conditions and we will explore the symptoms and the diagnosis process. In Louisiana alone, more than 7% of the population is affected by COPD.
Source: COPD Foundation (PDF).
Symptoms of Emphysema and COPD
Many patients may have the disease but be unaware of it. Here’s a look at signs you may have the emphysema or COPD:
The earliest symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath. Even the slightest activities may tire you out.
A cough that won’t go away
Chest tightness or chest pain
How Doctors Identify Emphysema
What does emphysema look like? To begin, the interior of the lungs are filled with small air sacs called alveoli. These air sacs expand with oxygen when you breathe in and allow oxygen to get into the bloodstream. Emphysema is a condition that causes these air sacs to weaken and ultimately rupture. When they rupture, there is less area for oxygen to be taken in and since emphysema is a chronic condition, these alveoli will continue to weaken and rupture until the lungs are not able to expand and contract on their own.
Emphysema is most notably a result of cigarette or tobacco smoking. The chemicals found in cigarette smoke can total over 7,000 and they are extremely toxic to the entirety of the body, but the lungs take most of the damage. Upon inhalation, the hot smoke and toxic chemicals damage the lung tissue and with an addictive habit like cigarettes, the damage happens multiple times a day for years. With every puff, more lung tissue dies and once it is dead, there is no replacing it. In fact, about 85 to 90 percent of all COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking in the United States.
If you are a long-term smoker or a former smoker and are over the age of 50, your chances for developing emphysema are much higher. The signs of COPD or emphysema can be confused with other conditions because things like shortness of breath or difficulty catching breath could be misconstrued as part of the aging process or the result of lifestyle choices. You see, as the air sacs are slowly destroyed, air becomes trapped in the lungs and is difficult to expel as well as obtain. Furthermore, if you are experiencing a tightness in the chest that does not seem to pass, these could be the beginning warning signs of COPD and possibly emphysema.
Diagnosing emphysema requires a few different tests. To begin, the doctor will use a physical examination to test things like your vitals and blood pressure. Following a physical, doctors will usually perform a combination of pulmonary function tests to examine the strength and performance of the lungs. Pulmonary function tests include breathing into tubes that can test how much air you are expelling, how fast it is being expelled, and how much air remains after exhalation.
Chest X-Rays and CT Scans
If the results of the pulmonary function test prove conclusive toward symptoms of COPD, doctors will use medical imaging to confirm the diagnosis. A chest x-ray is often performed to see if the lungs have become enlarged because of excess air or if there are structural changes in the lungs. However, diagnosing emphysema cannot be done with a chest x-ray alone. Chest CT scans are also used to diagnose COPD because they can show pockets of air in the lungs which are symptomatic of damage from COPD. All of these procedures are completely painless and require no invasive surgery and yet still provide accurate details and diagnosis.
A low-dose CT scan of the chest is a good way to detect multiple diseases and disorders, including chronic respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Early detection of these diseases and disorders is essential to the successful fight against them. The earlier they are detected, the better chance a patient has at survival.
This brings up a question, though. If preventative screening is key to catching these diseases early, how often should one get tested? Let’s take a look at today at one case in particular: a 55-year old ex-smoker who recently stopped smoking.
Our ex-smoker is 55 years old, and has had a history of smoking. The patient has since stopped. The patient shows lung cancer symptoms now but is worried about an increased chance of developing lung cancer or some other respiratory condition in the future.
Where Public Health Organizations Agree
In August of 2011, the results of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) found that screening with low-dose spiral computed tomography (LDCT) scans compared to chest X-ray reduced lung cancer deaths among older heavy smokers by 20%, according to the American Lung Association.
As of December 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force began recommending “annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in adults aged 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Screening should be discontinued once a person has not smoked for 15 years or develops a health problem that substantially limits life expectancy or the ability or willingness to have curative lung surgery.” Further, the USPSTF “concludes with moderate certainty that annual screening for lung cancer with LDCT is of moderate net benefit in asymptomatic persons who are at high risk for lung cancer based on age, total cumulative exposure to tobacco smoke, and years since quitting smoking.”
The American Lung Association is on the same page: Our patient should get tested if they are a current or former smoker aged 55 to 74 years old, has had a history of smoking for at least 30 packs per year and has no history of lung cancer.
Now, if our patient gets tested and the results come back with no signs of lung cancer, are they off the hook for future testing?
Lung cancer is one of the most aggressive and commonplace cancers in the world. More people die from lung cancer than any kind of cancer and over 218,000 new cases are reported every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cancer is fast-moving. Without catching it in the early stages, survival chances decrease rapidly. That is why it is of the utmost importance for most smokers over the age of 55 to be screened with a CT scan for lung cancer.
The commonly reported lung cancer symptoms are:
a cough that doesn’t seem to go away
coughing up blood or bloody phlegm
severe, constant chest pain
shortness of breath or breathing issues
These issues can be easily confused with a severe cold or sickness. That may be part of the reason why people do not get properly screened. So if you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your physician about getting a low-dose CT scan to check for cancerous nodules or masses in the lungs.
Another reason that lung cancer screenings are not occurring with enough frequency is that current smokers may be hesitant to admit their habit in a doctor’s office or hospital setting. Cigarette smoking is still the #1 cause of lung cancer in America. And smokers are aware of the health risks (they are written right on the package of cigarettes) but they are addicted to the nicotine.
While tobacco itself is a dangerous plant, it is the additives in cigarettes that contribute to the developing of lung cancer. Dangerous substances from cigarette smoking include all kinds of chemicals like nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, ammonia, formaldehyde, cyanide, and arsenic. These chemicals are kept at low amounts. So they don’t kill customers quickly, but smokers die more slowly from diseases such as emphysema and lung cancer, all the while making smokers lifelong customers.
At Doctors Imaging, we don’t want shame and fear of results to keep patients from getting lung cancer screenings. Because of our equipment, experience, and other qualifications, we have been able to offer our services and help detect lung cancer and get our patients the treatment necessary.
Find out if you may qualify for a low-dose CT scan. Even if you’re not eligible for a free exam based on your age or other qualifications, we’ll make sure you pay no more than $99 out of pocket. You can even request your appointment online. The sooner you get your exam, the sooner you can take the next step toward a healthier life.
Are you a longtime smoker, or a former heavy smoker? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you can reduce your risk of death from lung cancer by 20% when you receive a low-dose CT scan.
This groundbreaking discovery in cancer prevention and treatment came in 2011 when the New England Journal of Medicine published a study supporting the value of CT scans in detecting lung cancer more effectively than traditional X-rays. Since the initial 2011 publication, radiologists and other health professionals have been working tirelessly to educate patients about the benefits of CT scans, while also trying to ensure that the procedure is as affordable and convenient as possible. Since 2011, more support has emerged in support of low-dose CT scans for this screening:
In December of 2013, The US Preventative Services Task Force (USPTF), a US medical watchdog organization, endorsed annual screening for lung cancer using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scanning in adults aged 55-80 with a history of smoking certain amounts of cigarettes over specified time periods.
All these developments should simply highlight the life-saving value of this lung cancer screening.
And that’s where Doctors Imaging comes in. We don’t operate like a hospital or traditional imaging center. For us, the patient always comes first. So we are offering lung cancer CT scans for as low as $99 — a price you won’t find anywhere else in the Greater New Orleans area. In many cases, our CT scans are half the cost of a standard X-ray at the hospital.
Patients may be interested to know that the test takes about 10 minutes, and does not require needles or medicine.
When you’re ready, you can schedule an appointment online or just call 504-883-8111 to speak with a live representative. But don’t wait too long. Imaging services like low-dose CT scans can save your life if we catch lung cancer early enough.
As opposed to cancers like leukemia and prostate, lung cancer is most often caused by lifestyle choices such as smoking cigarettes, other tobacco products or working in areas where carcinogen-filled smoke is present.
There has been an increase in advertising and lobbying for anti-tobacco campaigns. In addition, there are more than a few organizations now attempting to stop potential smokers in their youth before they pick up the habit. Thanks to these efforts and increased study on the connection between smoking and lung cancer, the rates of lung cancer in the U.S. have decreased considerably.
In hopes of combating the lung cancer statistics, the American College of Radiology and the American Cancer Society have teamed up to offer certification and accreditation to different facilities around the country that have met the strict informative, functional, and practicing ways that contribute to increased knowledge and prevention of lung cancer.
This initiative makes states more competitive in their efforts toward eradicating lung cancer, especially in states where there are high numbers of diagnosis. Medical imaging communities have done studies on the effectiveness of these centers throughout the country by first surveying how many are currently in operation. The survey showed that “nationwide, each state, including Washington DC, had a mean of four screening centers; however, 11 states had no screening centers identified. There was an average of 0.3 screening centers per 100,000 people aged 55 to 79. Among the states with the best capacity of LDCT screening centers were Washington, DC, Connecticut, Virginia, Colorado, and Maryland.”
The areas that need improvement are states like Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Missouri because they have some of the highest prevalence of lung cancer. Fortunately for New Orleans area residents, Doctors Imaging now offers the screenings.
Low-Dose CTs have been shown to be one of the best measures taken in early diagnosis of lung cancer. Because of the aggressive nature of lung cancer and the rarity of lung transplants, the earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin and the better the chances of survival are. CT scans (computed tomography) use X-ray capabilities to examine the internal structures of the body. CTs are the preferred imaging tool when searching for the presence of lung cancer. Lungs are made up of tissues, blood vessels, and nerves. Because CT imaging can produce cross-sectional images of the body’s tissue, CTs can see through bone and see the lungs from several angles, reassuring the patient that their scan is thorough.
Some may be hesitant to book an appointment for a lung cancer screening because they are worried about pain from the procedure or the possibility of radiation exposure. Please know that CT scans are completely non-invasive and the average procedure takes no more than 30 minutes. The CT machines are calibrated so that the radiation used to highlight the internal organs is an extremely low dose, about as much natural radiation a person experiences during a year. Even more beneficial is that your results will be ready and shared with your practicing physician on the same day. Please keep in mind that your doctor may need sufficient time to review the results of your exam.
If you believe that you have a possibility of developing lung cancer or you are a former or current smoker over the age of 50, please consider coming to Doctors Imaging for a lung cancer screening test. Our machines are state-of-the-art. And our friendly and experienced staff will help you with your imaging questions and concerns. Please review our CT Scan Page to learn preparations and common questions or call our offices at 504-883-8111.
Lung cancer is a devastating condition to suffer. There are as many as 228,000 new cases of lung cancer to be diagnosed in 2019 and as almost 142,000 people will die from lung cancer-related complications. This translates to about 1 in 15 men and 1 in 17 women will be likely to develop lung cancer. You can see that lung cancer statistics in the United States are alarming, which is why Louisiana doctors are committed to finding innovative ways and techniques to both detect and treat lung cancer.
As a patient, the symptoms of lung and or bronchi cancer can be difficult to see at first. Symptoms of lung cancer could be can be innocuous things like a cough that won’t seem to go away, chest pain with deep breathing or coughing, shortness of breath, feeling tired and weak or hoarseness in the voice. As you can see from this symptom list, these symptoms could be a bad chest cold. That is why lung cancer diagnoses are made when cancer has become serious or terminal because people are not trained to recognize the signs.
Like most cancers, there can be one reason or several reasons why someone develops cancer. Cigarette or tobacco smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer. The Center for Disease Control has named smoking as “the number one risk factor for lung cancer” linking the habit to 80-90% of lung cancer diagnoses. Even if you are not a smoker, working or living around secondhand smoke can lead to lung cancer. Cigarette smoke is loaded with carcinogens and other toxic chemicals like tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide that can develop into lung cancer without ever even smoking a cigarette. Other risk factors for lung cancer include radon exposure, a naturally occurring gas that can be trapped in homes and buildings, that rises from the ground. You can have your home or office tested for radon levels and the EPA has a set of guidelines for lowering the radon levels in your dwelling. Other risk factors for lung cancer include family history or genetic issues as well as exposure to toxic substances like asbestos and chromium.
Louisiana is one state in particular that has a high instance of lung cancer. 68 per 100,000 residents have lung cancer and 51 per 100,000 die every year from the condition in Louisiana alone. With statistics like this, it is lucky that lung cancer detection in Louisiana has been made easier and more advanced with the help of local facilities like Doctors Imaging.
If you think that you may have lung cancer or would like to set up an appointment to discuss preventative measures, please contact Doctors Imaging in Metairie at 504-883-8111 Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5 PM.