Scanner catches lung cancer early

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January 7, 2013 9:27:47 AM PST
More than 225,000 people will be told they have lung cancer this year.

Only 15 percent of those people will live five years. Now, new technology helps doctors find possible problems earlier than ever before.

Jack Meduna's house is not a pigsty, but it is full of pigs.

"It really stands for pride, intelligence, and guts," said Meduna.

Jack knows all about guts. A police officer for 34 years, he dedicated his life to protecting others. Now it's time to protect himself.

"I'm not proud to say, but I've been smoking for 50 some odd years," Meduna said.

That's why Jack is one of the first to get a low-dose CT scan to check for signs of lung cancer.

"A cancer as small as one centimeter can be detected, so that's about a half of an inch," said David K. Madtes, MD, Director of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

X-rays can only detect tumors of more than an inch. Regular CT scans can put patients at risk for developing other cancers, exposing them to eight units of radiation. With this low dose scan, exposure can drop to two units.

"It's about the amount of exposure we all have to atmospheric radiation over the course of one year," Dr. Madtes said.

Detecting lung cancer at its earliest stage and having it removed, means a person can expect a five year survival rate of 70-percent.

Meduna said after the scan, the report said there were no signs of problems in his lungs.

Now, he says focused on getting healthy and staying that way.

Low dose CT scanners are becoming more and more available to the general public.

The American college of chest physicians and the American society of clinical oncology both recommend that people at high risk of developing lung cancer, including heavy smokers, be screened with the scanner.