Lung Cancer Screening Program Helped Lansing Resident Detect Cancer Early

“I was a smoker for over 35 years and decided I needed to quit,” said Jack Wilcox, a patient at McLaren Greater Lansing.

Those considered high risk of developing lung cancer are recommended to have an annual screening. This includes people 50-80 years of age with a 20-pack-years or higher history of smoking (for example, smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years) and those who currently or have quit smoking. 

After discussing his smoking habits with his doctor and because Wilcox fell within the high-risk category, he was advised to do a lung cancer screening through Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing. That screening detected his lung cancer.

“The screening was easy and painless and I’m glad I had it done,” said Wilcox. “I had to have surgery, which removed part of my lung, and no further treatment was needed.”

Wilcox is now cancer-free and didn’t have to go through chemotherapy or radiation treatments because of early detection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with cigarette smoking as the number one cause of lung cancer. Lung cancer is often found in the late stages, making it more difficult to treat and, therefore, being categorized as one of the silent cancers to look out for.

The lung cancer screening program involves receiving a low-dose CT scan, which uses a lower amount of radiation than a standard CT scan. When detected early, lung cancer patients have more treatment options and a greater chance of survival.

In 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its recommendations for lung cancer screening eligibility criteria. The recommendation nearly doubled the number of individuals eligible for screening by lowering the recommended age range and minimum pack-year smoking history. In 2022, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated its lung cancer screening eligibility guidelines for people covered by Medicare, based on the new USPSTF guidelines.

“The updated guidelines lowered the age to 50 years old instead of 55, as well as reduced the pack-year smoking history from 30 to 20 pack-years,” said Becky Loomis, thoracic oncology nurse navigator at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing. “This expands the coverage of those who are at high risk for lung cancer to receive screening sooner in the hopes of detecting lung cancer at an earlier stage.”

Loomis helps facilitate the screening process for patients and acts as a resource through their cancer journey. She also coordinates a smoking support group called “Freedom from Smoking” that gives the tools and resources for those wanting to quit smoking. The class involves meeting once a week for seven weeks. The next class begins January 8, 2024, and anyone interested can register with Becky Loomis at (517) 975-8030.

High-risk patients should talk to their primary care provider about whether screening is right for them and if they meet the criteria and can request a lung cancer screening by clicking here.