Lung Cancer Screenings: A Painless Peace of Mind

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in South Dakota and in the United States. It has caused more deaths than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. There’s no better way to increase your awareness than getting a lung cancer screening.

I’m excited to announce that the new Avera Cancer Institute Mitchell now offers lung cancer screenings. Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls has had a lung cancer screening program for years, which follows patients for up to three years. The program assists patients and coordinates the necessary care and diagnostic tests. It also provides up to three CT scans during the three-year program. The lung cancer screening program in Sioux Falls assisted Mitchell in the development of its own program.

The resources to improving your health are even closer to your community. Schedule your lung screening in Mitchell by calling 605-995-6363 or in Sioux Falls at 1-877-AT-AVERA (1-877-282-8372).

Who’s at risk for lung cancer?
People with a history of cigarette/cigar smoking are at the highest risk for developing lung cancer:

  • Current smokers who smoke at least 1 pack/day for 30 years or 2 packs/day for 15 years
  • Former smokers who smoked at least 1 pack/day for 30 years or 2 packs/day for 15 years

But they’re not the only ones! Other risk factors can cause lung cancer:

  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Exposure to asbestos and other chemicals

How is a lung cancer screening performed?
It’s important to get screened before you notice any symptoms. The screening is a low-dose CT scan, and it takes about 5 minutes. Before the screening, you’ll change into an exam gown. Then, you will lay on your back on the CT machine’s platform. When the screening begins, the platform will slowly move you through the interior of the CT machine. You must lie very still while the CT machine takes X-rays of your lungs.

What if something is discovered?
After the initial exam, your X-rays will be analyzed. If there is a concern, you will be asked to repeat the CT scan. A callback does not automatically mean you have cancer! Further testing and visiting with your physician is necessary to ensure nothing is overlooked in your X-rays.

I’m not sure what to do if I have cancer.
The Avera cancer centers in Mitchell and Sioux Falls both offer a lung patient navigator. The navigator is your great resource who discusses results and treatment options, coordinates your care and supports you through the entire journey — from diagnosis to treatment to life beyond cancer.

Our program in Mitchell
Avera Cancer Institute Mitchell offered free lung screenings to the first 50 people this past November. This was possible through generous donations to the Avera Queen of Peace Foundation. All 50 are included in the three-year program. One participant, Betty, began the program this summer and is now pursuing follow-up for an irregular CT scan.

Because this program allows patients who have no symptoms to be scanned, it can help detect lung cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

Check out Betty’s story on Avera Medical Minute.

Learn more about Avera’s lung cancer screening program.

By Charlene Berke

Director of the Cancer Center at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital

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