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STUDY: Earlier lung cancer screenings could save up to 12,000 lives per year

A new Mayo Clinic study says lowering the recommended criteria for lung cancer screenings could save more lives than the procedure already does.

TYLER, Texas — Lung cancer screenings are a proven way to catch the deadly disease in its early stages and according to a new study by Mayo Clinic, lowering the recommended criteria could save an estimated 12,000 lives per year.

Dr. James Stocks, a pulmonologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, says these findings are helpful moving forward.

"That isn't really a surprising finding," Dr. Stocks said. "We had to start somewhere, and the initial recommendations did find that that screening was helpful. Now we know that we don't need to be so tightly defined that individuals outside of those parameters should also be screened."

Dr. Stocks says these screenings are meant to catch the disease early and improve survival rates.

"The value of lung cancer screening, which is done with low radiation dose CAT scans, is that we can detect lung cancer early and improve survival," Dr. Stocks said. "When you find lung cancer at a time that the patient is already symptomatic. A lot of times it's already too late. The cancer is too big or has already spread."

The advantage of a low dose radiation screening test is it can be repeated more frequently than a higher dosed test.

"If you're going to repeatedly scan people as a screening test, you'd like to keep the total lifetime dose of radiation to a minimum," Dr. Stocks said. "So then this the type of scanning that we do for screening offers the opportunity to reduce the risk of radiation."

When it comes to smoking in general, Dr. Stocks says no good comes from puffing on a cigarette.

"Something bad happens to every smoker, whether it be cancer, and remember, it's not just lung cancer to smokers - breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancers, lots of different cancers, the risk goes up with cigarette smoking," Dr. Stocks explained. "It's not just cancer, the risk of COPD or emphysema, the risk of a lot of different types of problems related to smoking means that there's nobody who escapes health consequences of smoking." 

If you would like more information on getting a lung cancer screening test, you can talk to your doctor or call (903) 531-8890 to set up an appointment for a screening at an eligible UT Health East Texas facility. 

For assistance quitting smoking or a tobacco product, UTHSCT offers free tobacco cessation classes on Fridays from 11:15 a.m. -12 p.m. in room D211.

In addition, CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic has scheduled multiple smoking cessation classes, as well. Click here for more information.