Up until now, many lung cancer survivors owed their good fortune to luck – an incidental discovery of a lung nodule on an X-ray or a CT scan that was done for a totally unrelated reason.
In the past, screening for lung cancer was usually performed with chest X-rays and sputum analysis.
A better way to screen for lung cancer was revealed in 2011 by a study called the National Lung Screening Trial, involving 53,454 active or former cigarette smokers ages 55 to 75 years, which showed that low-dose CT scans detected more lung cancers than standard chest X-rays. Participants who received CT screening had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than those who received plain X-rays.
Cost should no longer be a deterrent for access to this more effective type of screening, because the study results prompted an Affordable Care Act requirement for medical insurance companies to cover low-dose CT screenings for individuals at high risk. Risk for developing lung cancer is considered high among current or former cigarette smokers age 55 to 75 with a history of more than “30 pack years” (one pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.).
Lung cancer kills more people each year than colorectal cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer combined. If detected early, before symptoms begin, lung cancer is often curable. With the cost of screening covered by insurance, including Medicare, more people will be able to be screened, diagnosed and treated early.
Phelps Memorial Hospital established the Westchester Lung Nodule Center to offer screenings for individuals who are at risk of developing lung cancer. Information about the Westchester Lung Nodule Center’s screening program is available online at lungnodulecenter.org or by calling 914-366-2333.
Dr. Avraham Merav is director of the Westchester Lung Nodule Center and chief of thoracic surgery at Phelps. A cardiothoracic surgeon for several decades, he has performed thousands of open heart and thoracic surgical procedures. He did pioneering work on lung transplantation while at Montefiore Medical Center, where he was chief of thoracic surgery. He was also chief of thoracic surgery at Englewood (NJ) Hospital. Dr. Merav earned his medical degree at the University of Basel and completed a residency in general surgery and a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Montefiore Hospital and Medical Center. He is board certified in general surgery and thoracic surgery and was an associate clinical professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Merav speaks six languages (Hebrew, French, German, Hungarian, Yiddish, and English). His office is in Suite 535 in the 755 North Broadway building on the Phelps campus (914-366-2333).