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Screenings available for lung cancer

A letter to the editor in Sunday’s paper may have flown under the radar, so here we hope to call extra attention to the important issue it addressed.

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of men and women in the United States. Other cancers may get more attention and more funding, but lung cancer accounts for about one in four cancer deaths. In 2018, nearly 6,000 people in Virginia alone will be diagnosed with lung cancer. The vast majority of them won’t make it even one year after diagnosis, according to the American Lung Association.

Lung cancer sufferers, in addition to undergoing the same brutal treatments as others who have cancer, suffer the added indignity of being stigmatized, because it is believed they brought the disease on themselves by smoking. In reality, secondhand smoke exposure, radon exposure, other environmental hazards and outdoor air pollution are also large contributors.

Plus, no matter what contributed to one’s disease, don’t they deserve treatment and a cure free from judgment just like everybody else?

If there’s any good news about lung cancer, it’s that society has gotten past the stigma just enough that a screening test, similar to what other cancers have had for decades, is finally starting to take hold.

Adults between 55 and 80 years old who have a 30 pack-year smoking history, who currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years, are encouraged to get a screening. A pack-year is the number of years smoked times the number of packs smoked per day.

The five-year survival rate for lung cancer when detected early is actually 56 percent. However, only 16 percent of cases are diagnosed at an early stage, which is what makes lung cancer so deadly.

Dr. Raffaele J. Marchigiani, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Sentara, wrote Sunday’s letter to us to spread the word about these screenings. See if you’re eligible by visiting www.lung.org/our-initiatives/saved-by-the-scan.