Lung Cancer Survival Rates Increase with Early Detection and Treatment

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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the US.

The good news is that the survival rate greatly increases when it’s detected and treated early. The only recommended screening for people at high-risk for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (CT).

Research shows that screening using a low-dose CT scan can help detect early lung cancer before clinical signs or symptoms become evident.

Jon Wee, MD, Thoracic Surgeon, Brigham and Women’s Surgical Associates, recently hosted a seminar at South Shore Hospital about early detection and options for surgical techniques to treat lung cancer. We sat down with him after his seminar to get some answers to common questions about the disease.

Q: Why should someone get screened and who are the best candidates?
I think it’s important for patients who have a smoking history to get screened, because it makes a difference in overall prognosis. Insurance typically covers the cost for those that are considered high risk. You are generally con
sidered high risk if:

  • You are a current smoker or quit within the past 15 years
  • You smoked a least one pack of cigarettes a day for 30+ years
  • You are between the age of 55-77


Even if you are not considered high risk, it’s worth talking to your primary care doctor about the benefits of screening.

Q: Why do you think people aren’t more proactive about getting screened, especially when the outcome can be so much better with early diagnosis?
People are scared about what they have to do if something is found. The important thing to note is that the vast majority of patients who have something found on a CT scan just need more CT scans to get a closer look. If there is something on your scans and it is caught early, it gives you a better chance of curing it as opposed to finding something too late.

Q: Are the latest and greatest technologies and surgical techniques always the best option for patients?
Just because it’s new, doesn’t always mean it’s the best or better for a specific patient. Physicians should always look at each patient’s issue critically and determine what is best for their patient. The da Vinci® Surgical System has been around for a little while and allows for a less invasive surgery. The same goes for video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) surgery, where a small video camera is introduced into the patient's chest via a scope. You might be able to recover quicker because the surgery isn’t as physically demanding as an open surgery. But this comes down to the physician’s strengths and experience and as always, what is best for the patient. It’s important that patients talk to their physician and build a strategy together that allows for the best care for them.

Q: What kind of care do lung cancer patients receive at South Shore Hospital?
South Shore has a strong program to diagnose and treat our lung cancer patients. The vast majority of lung cancer patients can get the same level of care here that is provided in Boston. We use the da Vinci® Surgical System here and many of the surgeons on staff here also do the same procedures at academic medical centers in Boston.

Are You a Candidate for a CT Lung Screen?
South Shore Hospital offers low-dose CT lung cancer screening appointments Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you think you qualify for a low-dose CT lung screening or would like more information on eligibility requirements, call us at (781) 624-4368 or request a call back from one of our imaging specialists.