Simple, Painless Scan is a Powerful Weapon Against Number One Cancer Killer

Author: Leslie Toldo

After battling a constant cough for more than a month, Floyd Anthony had a chest X-ray. A pulmonologist told Floyd he suspected COVID-19 might be behind the illness.

However, further testing with a CT scan revealed two nodules in Floyd’s right lung.

“Then they did a needle biopsy and were sure it was cancer,” Floyd said. “It was really scary.”

Learning he had stage one lung cancer was also shocking. Floyd, a self-proclaimed “health nut,” spent a lot of time in the gym. He smoked when he was younger, but it had been 46 years since Floyd quit.

“I quit smoking when I was 30. So, when I was diagnosed, they treated me like a non-smoker because it had been so long,” Floyd said.

While Floyd is not sure whether smoking when he was younger contributed to his lung cancer, the reality is that smoking is the number one risk factor for the disease. The American Cancer Society links smoking to about 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in the United States annually. The ACS estimates it will kill 127,070 Americans this year, making it the deadliest cancer by far.

“It is so deadly because it spreads,” said Dr. John Kuhn, Floyd’s cardiothoracic surgeon at McLaren Flint. “Lung cancer typically goes undetected until it is in a late stage because there are seldom signs of cancer early on when it is curable.”

That means catching cancer early requires screening, which is relatively new for lung cancer. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) did not officially begin recommending routine lung cancer screening until the end of 2013. The screening method is a simple low-dose CT scan, which is basically a series of X-ray pictures put together to create an image of an area, in this case, the lungs.

“This is one of the most cost-effective and potentially life prolonging tests one can have done,” Dr. Kuhn said.

USPSTF’s latest lung cancer screening recommendations came out in March of 2021. The guidelines call for annual CT scans for people aged 55-80, with a minimum 20-year pack history of smoking. That means smoking at least a pack a day for 20 years. The screening is also recommended for former smokers who have quit within the last 15 years.

While an annual screening cannot reverse the damage caused by smoking, it could give the arsenal of weapons designed to fight lung cancer a better chance at defeating this deadly disease.

“It simply means lives saved,” Dr. Kuhn said.

During surgery, Dr. Kuhn removed the upper lobe of Floyd’s right lung, along with 13 lymph nodes. While it is still unclear whether Floyd will need further treatment, he is taking the devastating diagnosis in stride, and he is optimistic about the road ahead.

“When you’re my age, you expect something to go wrong,” Floyd said. “But I have got to be around. When my granddaughter was eight, I told her I would be around until my 100th birthday. I have to live at least that long.”

If you are a current or former smoker, talk with your doctor about screening. To learn more about lung cancer screening, visit