Doctors hope screening tool will prompt smokers to quit




Posted on November 15, 2012 at 6:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 15 at 7:15 PM

IRVING -- As a nurse, Dawn Livingston knows she shouldn't smoke. But, she can't help it.

"I have smoked 35-to-37 years," Livingston admitted, "And I have successfully attempted - once for 7 years - I quit."

She's about to try again after seeing a screening CT scan that showed an abnormality.

More than 45 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. In the U.S., tobacco is responsible for nearly 1-in-5 deaths and at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths.

Yet, unlike a mammogram or colonoscopy, both considered routine screening, lung cancer screening is a new concept. But, recent research shows low-dose CT scans can result in a 20 percent reduction in deaths.

"The low-dose CT scan is supposed to show lung nodules, or basically lung cancers at an early stage," said Baylor Irving Interventional Radiologist Dr. Jay Patel. "The earlier we can detect them and the smaller these lung cancers are, the greater the chances are for the patient to have a cure."

Patel said screening CT's for lung cancer are not yet covered by insurance, but should be soon because of their potential cost savings.

"It will provide a cost-effective way of screening for lung cancer," Dr. Patel said. "Detecting lung cancer earlier and preventing the more expensive surgeries and therapies that could happen if the lung cancer is detected down the road and not earlier."

At Baylor Irving, the out-of-pocket costs runs about $200. A fee that may have saved countless more in treatment down the road, not to mention Dawn Livingston's life.

"I quit before because I wanted to," Livingston said. "I'm quitting now with mixed feelings, because I have to."