What's your risk?
The American Cancer Society estimates 3,740 Louisianans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control ranks Louisiana as one of the 12 states with the highest prevalence of the disease.
“There are not many people whose lives haven’t been touched by lung cancer,” says Dr. Brad Vincent, an interventional pulmonologist and chair of Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center Lung Cancer Multidisciplinary Care Team.
“Especially in southeastern and central Louisiana,” Vincent continues, “the average person will know an aunt, uncle, brother, sister, cousin, grandma, friend — somebody — who has lung cancer because it touches so many lives.”
The disease is most likely to strike smokers older than age 55 and older, former smokers who quit less than 15 years ago, workers with exposure to asbestos and individuals with other lung diseases or history of lung cancer in their families.
While lung cancer continues to be the most common cause of cancer death in Louisiana, the New England Journal of Medicine reports the disease is 80 to 90 percent curable if diagnosed in the early stages.
To help Baton Rougeans gauge their risk for lung cancer and the need for medical screening, MBP-OLOL recently introduced an online quiz. After pulling up the link on a computer or smartphone, participants answer a few multiple-choice questions and receive a high, moderate or low rating. Additional screening is recommended for only the high-risk participants.
When the quiz results are revealed, that group is referred to MBP-OLOL Cancer Center’s Lung Screening Clinic, which screens high-risk individuals at a discounted rate.
“It is imperative for individuals to know if they are at high risk for lung cancer,” explains Vincent. “The online quiz provides an avenue for individuals to evaluate their level of risk. Low-dose CT scan is highly recommended for anyone with increased risk factors.”
But, Vincent admits, there’s more to successful screening than just technology.
“The absolute fear of finding something or getting a positive scan can be overwhelming and terrifying,” says Vincent. “We have all the resources to help patients deal with the all the results: positive and negative.”
Besides a full complement of monitoring, diagnostic and surgical services and a multidisciplinary team to care for patients requiring treatment, MBP-OLOL has programs to help smokers lower their chances of contracting the disease.
“There’s not a caring physician out there who doesn’t know how hard it is to quit smoking,” says Vincent. “I tell my patients: It’s harder to quit smoking than to quit heroin.”
A variety of smoking cessation resources from classes, phone support to medication and other strategies, are offered.
“We’re doing everything possible to fight lung cancer in our community,” says Vincent.
The quiz is available at mbpolol.org/lung.
For more information on the Cancer Center’s lung cancer screenings, call (225) 215-1515.