How Often Should Ex-Smokers Get Lung Cancer Screenings?

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?

No. The patient should still be tested annually.

The goal here is prevention, and the best way to do this is through screening, according to the American Cancer Society. Our patient is likely to develop lung cancer, so preventative screening is the best way to keep them healthy and perhaps save a life.

If you’re looking for preventative screening services (such as a CT scan), come to Doctors Imaging. We’re radiologists concerned about quality patient care. Scheduling is easy, results are available online, our rates are below hospitals, and we accept every major insurance.

How Does Stress Damage the Body and Mind?

How many times a day do you think you hear the word “stress”? Probably more than you would like to admit, but it is a fact of life that everyone has times when they’re “stressed out.” While life will never ease the presence of stressful situations, the responses individuals have to stress can vary greatly. The original form of stress in your caveman ancestors was dangerous predators and threats from other groups. Humans became hardwired with a “flight or fight” response to stress because of these conditions. The sweaty palms, the racing heart, the hyper focused mindset, these symptoms are all responses to stress and the desire to either stay and fight the stressor or flee to save your life.

But what is stress exactly? Most would say it is personal relationships, your demanding job, or the pressures of daily life. While these might be your stressors, the body recognizes stress as the release of certain hormones in preparation for a difficult situation. Everyone presents stress in different ways: some lose sleep, some sleep too much, concentration difficulty, appetite loss or increase, lack of energy, but regardless of how you show your stress, what stress does to the brain and body is the troubling consequence.

Your body does not distinguish from physical or psychological stress. When the brain feels that you are in danger, it releases adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. In your caveman ancestors, these hormones would allow you to go longer without eating, using the restroom, sleeping, and help you not to feel pain if you needed to focus on outrunning a predator or trying to make a big kill. Your body still releases these hormones, except today it does it when you find out that you have lost your job, a family member has passed or your home is threatened by natural disaster.

While everyone has stress in their lives, long-term stress can be damaging to your health and longevity. Stress raises blood pressure, suppresses the immune system, increases the aging process and inhibits fertility. When you are feeling stressed, your brain is flooding your body with cortisol and adrenaline in the hopes of helping your reaction. The problem with long-term stress is that the stress hormones, in particular cortisol, damages the body in a number of ways. Cortisol destroys healthy bone and muscle, impairs your ability to properly heal, slows digestion and metabolism, reduces energy levels, and can disrupt mental functionality.

Finding positive ways of coping and eliminating stress in your life is crucial to maintaining your health and increasing your quality of life. Studies have shown that long-term stress can even grow the proteins contributed to Alzheimer’s and causes disorders like fibromyalgia, arthritis, and premature menopause. While you may not be able to rid yourself of your biggest stressor, you can control your reactions and benefit your health. Try 30 minutes of daily meditation, exercise, counseling, or medication if you need extra help in finding the right channels to cope with your stress.

If you’re stressed out about your health, preventative medical care can be exactly what you’re looking for. Speak with your doctor or call Doctors Imaging at 504-883-8111, and we can discuss what will work best for you.