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Providence offers new test for lung cancer

July 29, 2015

New screening can detect lung cancer at earlier, more treatable stage

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  • Providence St. Mary Medical Center
    Kathleen Obenland
    Director of Marketing and Communications
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Walla Walla, WA—Providence St. Mary Medical Center is now offering a screening test for one of the world’s most deadly cancers—lung cancer.

More than half of people die within a year of being diagnosed with lung cancer, but until recently there was no reliable way to screen for it.

The screening increases the chance that the cancer can be detected earlier, at a more treatable stage.

The new screening takes just 15 minutes and is performed using low-dose computer tomography (LDCT). It is available to people who are considered to be high risk for lung cancer: individuals between the ages of 55 and 80 who are currently smoking or who have quit smoking in the last 15 years, and/or who have smoked at least a pack a day for 30 or more years.

Prior to LDCT screening, most lung cancers were diagnosed after the tumor had grown and possibly spread, making it difficult treat. The five year survival rate for all lung cancer is just under 18 percent. Only 4 percent of people survive for five years if the cancer has spread beyond the lungs by the time it is detected.

The earlier it can be detected, the greater opportunity for longer survival.

People who believe they are at risk for lung cancer are encouraged to ask their primary care physician for a referral for the screening. The provider will then refer the patient to the Diagnostic Imaging Department at Providence St. Mary. People do not have to be Providence patients to receive this screening, but must have a primary care physician who can receive and speak to them about the results. (People who need a primary care doctor but do not yet have one can call 526-3333 or use our website to find a provider online.)

Medicare and other insurances generally pay for the test, but patients are encouraged to check with their plans to determine their level of coverage. In addition to testing, Providence St. Mary Medical Center offers patients who need further testing or treatment a multi-specialty team consisting of radiology, oncology, pulmonology, surgery, navigation, survivorship, palliative care and social services to streamline care.

More about lung cancer from the American Lung Association

  • Lung cancer causes more deaths than colorectal, breast and prostate cancers combined. An estimated 158,040 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer in 2015, accounting for approximately 27 percent of all cancer deaths.
  • Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, accounting for 1.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths in 2012.
  • The National Institutes of Health estimate that cancer care cost the United States an overall $124.6 billion in 2010, $12.1 billion of which is due to lung cancer. Lost productivity due to early death from cancer lead to an additional $134.8 billion in 2005, $36.1 billion of which was due to lung cancer.
  • The rate of new lung cancer cases (incidence) over the past 37 years has dropped for men (28 percent decrease), while it has risen for women (98 percent increase.
  • Smoking, a main cause, contributes to 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and 90 percent in men. Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Women are 13 times more likely, compared to women who have never smoked.
  • Between 2005 and 2010, an average of 130,659 Americans (74,300 men and 56,359 women) died of smoking-attributable lung cancer each year. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year.
  • Nonsmokers have a 20-30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer if they are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work.

Providence St. Mary Medical Center, a 142-bed regional hospital located in Walla Walla, Wash., is the fourth largest employer in Walla Walla County. The Providence Medical Group is the largest group of primary care providers and specialists in the Walla Walla area.