Lung Cancer Screening at Sylvester

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center has the only screening program in South Florida sanctioned by the Lung Cancer Alliance, supported by a team of specialist who have decades of experience in effectively diagnosing and treating people with lung cancer. Studies have shown that getting screened may diagnose lung cancer early and save your life.

Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer death in the nation and the second leading cause of death from all causes. An estimated 250,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011 and 150,000 will die. In Florida alone, lung cancer will claim 10,000 lives.

There are enormous benefits to catching lung cancer early, says Tammy Baxter, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery and one of the leaders of the program. “Survival is three to four times higher if it’s caught very early. That means lives saved,” Dr. Baxter said.

Early detection of lung cancer leads to increased survival, but in many cases, a patient’s disease is not discovered until there are symptoms and it is in an advanced stage. Until now, there has been no method for lung cancer screening that was proven to be effective. A recent study, however, by the National Cancer Institute showed a 20 percent improvement in survival with screening by CT imaging.

Based on that evidence, Sylvester is taking a lead role in saving lives. Baxter, along with Dao M. Nguyen, M.D., the B. and Donald Carlin Chair in Thoracic Surgical Oncology, and Richard Thurer, M.D., professor of surgery, are heading up the Sylvester screening program in anticipation of national guidelines being issued.

“As South Florida’s comprehensive cancer center, we have all the components in place to apply this screening method to people who are at risk for this cancer,” says Nguyen.

People who are former or current smokers are at the greatest risk for lung cancer. That risk can be assessed by calculating the number of packs smoked per day times the number of years a person smoked. If that number is greater than 20, that person is at risk for lung cancer. Other factors include a family history of lung cancer, and exposure to asbestos, radon and second hand smoke.

Thurer says this screening “can give us an early look at patients who may be concerned that years of smoking has put them at risk. If we find something, we have the team of oncologists and surgeons who can treat the patient completely.”

The screening, at a nominal cost, will involve a non-contrasted low-dose CT scan of the chest that can be performed at Sylvester’s main facility in Miami, Kendal, Plantation and at Sylvester in Deerfield Beach.If you are concerned about your risk of lung cancer and would like to consider scheduling a screening, please call the Ask for Ana program at Sylvester at 305-243-5302 or 1-877-243-1056.

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