Overlake targets lung cancer with screening alternative


Overlake Medical Center physicians are hoping to increase the odds of surviving lung cancer with earlier detection.

The hospital launched a new lung cancer screening program aimed to help identify lung cancer in its earlier stages, when five-year survival rates can reach as high as 75 percent with surgery.

“Unfortunately, many patients we see are already in the later stages of lung cancer when the chances of successful treatment are significantly reduced,” said Todd Freudenberger, MD, an Overlake specialist in pulmonary medicine and one of the hospital’s leading lung cancer experts. “With earlier detection, we know we can make a significant difference in the lives of our patients and tilt the odds back in their favor.”

The new lung cancer screening program uses an affordable, low-dose CT scan that uses only 10 to 30 percent as much radiation compared to a standard-dose CT scan. All patients have to do is hold their breath for six seconds during the screening.

The hospital recommends patients who have smoked for 15 or more years should discuss having the low-dose cancer screening with their primary care provider.

“The discouraging reality about lung cancer is early stages of the cancer are not easily detected without such screenings,” said Freudenberger. “Patients become aware of the disease when symptoms become apparent. Too often, this signals a later, less treatable, stage of disease. We know we can catch this disease earlier with the right screening technology. This gives us the best chance of making a difference.”

Stage I lung cancer has a 60 percent five-year survival rate, which rises to at least 75 percent with surgery. Later stage lung cancer, on the other hand, has a very poor prognosis. The five-year survival rate for Stage III lung cancer is a dismal 15 percent and the rate for Stage IV lung cancer is less than one percent.

Urged on by recent studies indicating that CT screening significantly reduces lung cancer deaths, an advisory panel to Medicare convened in May to discuss the low-dose CT screening for lung cancer and assess whether Medicare should cover the screening in high-risk individuals. However, the panel voted against recommending national Medicare coverage for the annual screening for lung cancer.

“Having Medicare and other insurers cover screening would clearly save lives. Until these payers decide to cover this important screening tool, our goal is to keep low-dose CT screening as affordable as possible,” said Freudenberger.

Overlake Medical Center’s low-dose lung cancer screening costs $199.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in men and women. In fact, lung cancer causes more deaths in the United States than breast, colon, pancreas and prostate cancer combined.

For more information is available online.

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