Lung Cancer Screenings at Oklahoma Heart Hospital

During the month of November, we spotlight lung cancer awareness. Lung cancer is responsible for more cancer deaths than any other cancer. The good news is that lung cancer cases continue to decline overall, and early identification of the cancer leads to better prognosis and potentially even a cure. At OHH, we offer screenings for those who are at risk for developing lung cancer. 

Risk factors for lung cancer

As with most diseases, there are some risk factors that cannot be changed and some that can be influenced with behavior modification. 

  • Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. The more cigarettes a person smokes and the longer they have smoked, the higher their risk for both developing lung cancer and dying from it. The good news is that quitting smoking can lower your risk for lung cancer, even if you have been a long-time smoker.

  • Second-hand smoke exposure also increases the risk for lung cancer, including people who are often in a smoky environment or who have grown up in a home with parents who smoke.

  • Radon or asbestos exposure in the home or workplace is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon cannot be detected by smell or sight and accumulates indoors in certain homes, particularly in basements. Tests can be done to check the level of radon in a home, and mitigation systems can provide adequate ventilation to lower levels of radon. Asbestos exposure, particularly in the workplace, can cause many diseases of the lung. The risk of lung cancer compounds for those exposed to asbestos who also smoke. 

  • Personal or family history of lung cancer is also a risk factor, though it’s unclear if that risk stems from shared environmental factors or genetics.

Who should be screened?

Those who are at high risk for lung cancer due to age, smoking history, radon or asbestos exposure, or personal or family history should receive annual screenings. When assessing a person’s smoking history, Oklahoma Heart Hospital considers the pack years smoked. To figure out your pack years smoked, multiply the number of packs you smoked daily by the total number of years you smoked. Individuals who are 55 to 74 years old, are current smokers or smokers who quit less than 15 years ago, or those who smoked at least 30 pack years are considered high risk and should be screened annually. 

Screening risks and benefits

Lung cancer screening is done by a low-dose CT scan (LDCT). It is non-invasive and is an important part of proactive care for those at high risk for developing lung cancer. However, as with many diagnostic tests, there are some minor risks involved. 

One of the risks is false positives that can lead to follow-up tests and investigative surgeries. Another concern is the risk of radiation exposure through repeated screenings. For this reason, lung cancer screening is not recommended for those who are at low risk for cancer or who would be unwilling to undergo further lung surgeries due to other health conditions. 

If you are concerned about your lung cancer risk and interested in being screened, call Oklahoma Heart Hospital for an appointment or consultation today.