Smokers encouraged to talk to their doctors about lung screenings

Published: Nov. 20, 2017 at 3:01 PM CST
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More than 3,000 people in the state died from lung cancer last year, and more than 4,200 people were diagnosed. America's Health Rankings reports 17 percent of Wisconsin adults smoke, which equals 1 in 6 people.

Smokers have an elevated risk of developing lung cancer and doctors say it's usually too late once symptoms start to show.

"Sometimes when you start having trouble, weight loss, pain, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, it's already too late, so when it comes down to lung cancer it's best to do screening and then of course quitting the smoking, the earlier you do it the better," said Dr. Raul Mendoza, Aurora BayCare Interventional Pulmonologist.

Mendoza says the primary cause of lung cancer is cigarette smoke, he recommends smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke talk to their primary care doctor about lung cancer screenings. Regular CT scans reduce lung cancer death rates by up to 20 percent.

"So stage one cancer if the patient is a good candidate for surgery and the cancer can be taken out that's an excellent prognosis, 90 percent or so of people get cured, as compared to people in stage four where pretty much nobody gets cured," said Dr. Mendoza.

Smoking accounts for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths and is now the number one cause of cancer deaths in women topping breast and ovarian cancers.

Mendoza says it takes a full 15 years after smokers quit for risk factors to fall to regular levels.

"We strongly encourage to keep your appointments with primary care doctors if you're able, because the only way to get this thing is to have screenings right up front and catch it early" said Lisa Bieber, R.N., Aurora BayCare Nurse Navigator.