Three major medical entities in Jefferson City - Jefferson City Medical Group (JCMG), Capital Region Medical Center (CRMC) and St. Mary's Health Center (SMHC) - conduct lung cancer screening, a procedure recently recommended in a draft by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
While the draft of the recommendation is not final, in it, the Task Force "recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (CT scans) in persons at high risk for lung cancer based on age and smoking history."
"They found basically a 20 percent improvement in the curability of lung cancer by using the CT scanning to detect lung cancers early enough that they can be successfully operated upon and removed," said Dr. Shelby Rifkin, a hematologist and oncologist at CRMC's Goldschmidt Cancer Center.
A Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by local medical entities last year, determined smoking, a leading cause of lung cancer, as the No. 3 risk factor for chronic diseases in the community.
Lung cancer screening helps address that.
The Goldschmidt Cancer Center's CT Screening Project is funded through a $100,000 CRMC Partners grant. The project began in June 2012.
According to Rifkin, during the first year of conducting the free screening, 354 patients were questioned to determine whether they were high risks for lung cancer. They identified 212 of those patients as high risk, by considering their age, smoking history and other factors. Of the high-risk patients, 178 consented to receive the free CT lung cancer screening. Doctors deemed 70 of the CT screens as abnormal, and through follow-ups, five patients were diagnosed with lung cancer.
"We're now already on the second year, and are reimaging patients who were originally screened," Rifkin said. "The results show we're really on target with this kind of program."
To see if you are eligible for the free lung cancer screening, you must fill out a questionnaire, which can be found at the Center, and then submit it to your CRMC affiliated physician. The physician will forward the information to a lung cancer screening nurse to determine if you are at high, moderate or low risk for lung cancer. Only high-risk patients are offered the free lung cancer CT screening.
SMHC started offering a similar lung cancer screening service late last year. If your primary care physician thinks you're at risk, they'll send you to the hospital for screening.
"Also, if we're ever doing a CT scan at the hospital or a chest X-ray, the radiologist will ask (smoking) questions," said Heather Feeler, communications coordinator at SMHC. "They might put in the notes to go back to the primary (care physician) that they'd probably be a good candidate for a lung screening.
"It's not a screening you can just ask for."
Dr. David Burns oversees JCMG's CT lung cancer screening program. The screening is recommended for patients who are smokers or former smokers who have quit in the last 15 years. They must be 55-74 years old. They must also have a smoking history of at least 30 packs a year.
Again, the screening process begins with the primary care physician.
Rifkin encourages those who think they might be high risk for developing lung cancer to contact their physician.
"I know smoking is prevalent here," Rifkin said. "Since I came (to Jefferson City) in 2010, I've seen more lung cancer than my 15 years of practice in Chicago."