Lima Memorial promoting lung cancer screenings

LIMA — Lima Memorial Health System is closing out Lung Cancer Awareness Month by promoting new screening recommendations from the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Jason Steinecker, a pulmonologist at Lima Memorial, said that early detection can make all the difference as lung cancer does not show many symptoms until in an advanced stage, but that screenings can detect nodules and help patients survive.

“It’s basically a low-radiation dose CAT scan that patients get every year if you smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years or half a pack for 40 years and are between the ages of 50 and 80,” he said. “We can screen for it every year because as we said, there are no symptoms. If we see a nodule, we can take a biopsy, catch it early and get it diagnosed and treated.”

The American Cancer Society is anyone at risk for lung cancer to discuss getting a low-dose CT scan with a healthcare professional and to consider quitting smoking if they do. It is also recommended that anyone with serious health problems that will limit the length of life or ability or desire to get treatment not to get screened.

Steinecker said that the scans are usually performed without unforeseen complications and are as simple as setting up appointments and making sure insurance covers them.

“It’s very simple,” he said. “Usually a primary care doctor will order it and all insurances cover it because it is part of standard health exams. They get it set up and done and if there is an abnormality, the family doctor will give us a call and we will see the patient within a week of that result.”

Steinecker added that the screenings are worth potentially helping patients avoid chemotherapy or other treatments that can cause side effects.

“In this world of medicine, we want to help everybody and we want everybody to get help with the least side effects,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure to help all of these people out without medications or chemotherapy.”

The cure rate of lung cancer sits at 95 percent if a doctor catches it at stage one, but the later it is caught the lower the survival rate becomes.

“Early detection and early cure rate are really important,” Steinecker said. “And we’ve done a great job here at Lima Memorial in my six years. Our diagnoses from late stage to early stage have completely reversed.”

Since there are so few symptoms early on, the scans are all the more important and any smoker should be asking a doctor for a scan even if they are perfectly healthy.

“90 percent of scans are normal and that’s fine and great,” Steinecker said. “If we catch it early, that’s great and if we don’t catch anything, even better. With all that, if you have an abnormal CT scan, we get you set up and get a biopsy so it’s something that everyone can take advantage of.”

The best way to be safe from lung cancer is to quit smoking.

“We know that not everyone with lung cancer is a smoker and that not every smoker gets lung cancer, but that everybody that gets lung cancer and smoked was likely related,” Steinecker said. “Stopping smoking is a huge factor. Eat healthy and exercise, but the biggest thing is quitting smoking.”

For more information, visit the Lima Memorial website or visit the American Cancer Society website.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.