November 19, 2014

Overlake Encourages Smokers to Get Screened for Lung Cancer

BELLEVUE, Wash. (Nov. 19, 2014) – As Eastside smokers make plans to stop smoking on the Great American Smokeout Nov. 20, Overlake Medical Center physicians are hoping they’ll consider getting screened for lung cancer.

Overlake physicians would like to increase the odds of surviving lung cancer through earlier detection. 

“Stopping smoking is absolutely an important first step,” said Todd Freudenberger, MD, an Overlake specialist in pulmonary medicine and one of the hospital’s leading lung cancer experts. “But it’s just the beginning, people with a long-history of smoking should get screened for lung cancer.”

The hospital launched a new lung cancer screening program earlier in the year aimed at helping identify lung cancer in its earlier stages, when five-year survival rates can reach as high as 75 percent with surgery.

“Unfortunately, many patients we see are already in the later stages of lung cancer when the chances of successful treatment are significantly reduced,” said Dr. Freudenberger. “With earlier detection, we know we can make a significant difference in the lives of our patients and tilt the odds back in their favor.”

The new lung cancer screening program uses an affordable, low-dose CT scan that uses only 10 to 30 percent as much radiation compared to a standard-dose CT scan. All patients have to do is hold their breath for six seconds during the screening.

The hospital recommends that patients who have smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 20 or more years should discuss having the low-dose cancer screening with their primary care provider. 

“The discouraging reality about lung cancer is early stages of the cancer are not easily detected without such screenings,” said Dr. Freudenberger. “Patients become aware of the disease when symptoms become apparent.  Too often, this signals a later, less treatable, stage of disease. We know we can catch this disease earlier with the right screening technology.  This gives us the best chance of making a difference.”

Stage I lung cancer has a 60 percent five-year survival rate, which rises to at least 75 percent with surgery.  Later stage lung cancer, on the other hand has a very poor prognosis.  The five-year survival rate for Stage III lung cancer is a dismal 15 percent and the rate for Stage IV lung cancer is less than one percent.

Urged on by recent studies indicating that CT screening significantly reduces lung cancer deaths, an advisory panel to Medicare convened in May to discuss the low-dose CT screening for lung cancer and assess whether Medicare should cover the screening in high-risk individuals. At that time the panel voted against recommending national Medicare coverage for the annual lung cancer screening. However, on Nov. 10, Medicare proposed covering the screening, kicking off a formal 30-day comment period that will likely end with the benefit becoming a reality for Medicare beneficiaries.

“Having Medicare and other insurers cover screening would clearly save lives.  Until the screenings are covered by Medicare and other payers, our goal is to keep this important low-dose CT screening as affordable as possible,” said Dr. Freudenberger.

Overlake Medical Center’s low-dose lung cancer screening costs $199.

Should the screening reveal a patient does, in fact, have lung cancer, Overlake Medical Center’s Cancer Center provides the latest and most technologically advanced methods of treatment including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted drug therapy.

Overlake's unique lung cancer program is distinguished by state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, leading-edge treatments, and a skilled, interdisciplinary staff, which includes a dedicated thoracic surgeon and a lung cancer navigator. The lung cancer navigator is available to provide guidance to patients and their families throughout the treatment process. 

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in men and women. In fact, lung cancer causes more deaths in the United States than breast, colon, pancreas and prostate cancer combine.

For more information about Overlake Medical Center’s Lung Cancer Services, go to: Lung Cancer Program.