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Lung Screening and Navigators Help High-Risk Patients

Fayetteville Ga. (Nov. 1, 2018) – Piedmont Fayette Hospital has earned status as an American College of Radiology Lung Cancer Screening Center Destination. The lung screening program at Piedmont Fayette is for patients who meet a certain criteria and are deemed “high risk” for lung cancer which makes them eligible to participate in Piedmont Fayette’s lung screening program. The program uses a low-dose CT (computed tomography) scan of the chest to detect the disease.

“Those who are at high risk include people age 55 to 77 who have at least a 30 pack-year history of smoking, who are current smokers or who quit within the past 15 years,” said Karen Bouwman, a cancer navigator at Piedmont Fayette. She added that pack years are defined by the number of packs per day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked. “It’s important to focus on high-risk patients because lung cancer tends to be non-symptomatic in its early stages and it is the second leading cause of death behind heart disease. Our goal is to catch problems early.”

Smoking is not the only risk factor for lung cancer, but it is the biggest risk factor for the disease. Other known risk factors for lung cancer are contact with radon, asbestos or other cancer-causing agents such as radioactive materials or inhaled chemicals or minerals, family history of lung cancer, diagnoses of certain other cancers and/or lung disease and contact with second-hand smoke. These other factors alone do not make a person at “high-risk” for lung cancer.

Those who qualify for the screening, which is covered by Medicare and most insurances, have a low dose CT screening annually. If the screening detects anything suspicious, a multi-disciplinary team from the hospital, involving oncologists, pulmonologists, radiologists, a thoracic surgeon, and the nurse navigator, review the findings and make a plan of action with the physician. If cancer is detected, the nurse navigator steps in to guide the patient and his or her family through the process.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42. I understand how overwhelming a cancer diagnosis can be,” Bouwman said. “As a patient navigator, I have the privilege of guiding patients through their cancer journey beginning at the time of diagnosis.”

Bouwman urges those who meet the criteria for the lung screening to be proactive with their health and have the screening done. The earlier an abnormality or cancer can be detected, the better the outcome can be for a patient. A national lung screening trial found that annual screening with the use of low-dose CT, which is used to find nodules in the lungs, reduces mortality from lung cancer by 20 percent when compared to annual screening with chest x-ray. As with many diseases, early detection of lung cancer is key to successful treatment.

To learn more, visit piedmont.org/lung.

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