INTERVIEW: Special CT scans for heavy smokers

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – If you smoke or if you've ever smoked, you know you're at a much higher risk for lung cancer, the nation's top cancer killer. But researchers think they've come up with a way to save your life or at least start cancer treatment sooner.

A major study suggests it's a good idea to give heavy smokers special CT scans. But this is nothing new for a local hospital.

Doctors at HCA have been recommending this practice for years. Dr. Peter Buckman from HCA Virginia, an oncologist from Henrico Doctor's Hospital and he's here to talk more about the practice.

Ryan Nobles: You said you guys have been working on this for more than five years. Why is it such an effective treatment?

Peter Buckman: Well, Ryan, as you stated earlier, the leading cause of cancer death in the United States is lung cancer, so there's been long an interest in finding a screening test like we have to breast cancer with mammograms, etcetera, and in the '70s, they looked at chest X-rays and that didn't do any good as far as reducing cancer deaths from smoking or lung cancer. In the '90s, a study called LCAP showed you can find lung cancers earlier, get them out earlier, but it didn't show that fewer people died from lung cancer. The present study from the National Cancer Institute called the national lung screening trial shows that you can reduce the deaths from lung cancer with early detection by CT screening to the extent of 20% fewer deaths. 

Ryan Nobles: And lung cancer is often a devastating diagnosis. When most people find out about it, I assume it's just like other cancers, the sooner you learn about it, the easier it is to treat it. 

Peter Buckman: That's what the study shows. Not only is it easier to treat because you find it at an earlier stage but you have a better chance of cure. For all people diagnosed with lung cancer, fewer than one in five are cured. If we can take that number up to two out of five or more, that's hundreds of thousands of people per year. 

Ryan Nobles: And the best type of candidate for this type of research is somebody that smoked for a long time? 

Peter Buckman: The criteria for the study, you either smoked for over 30 years at least a pack a day and I think that will be liberalized to people who smoke less and fewer years, but right now at our hospital, it's 20 years of smoking at least a pack a day. Insurance will not pay for it at this time, but with the study coming out, I think that will be something that insurance and medicare will reimburse for. We at Henrico Doctor's provide the service for $3,757, which is much lower than the usual cost for a CT scan. 

Ryan Nobles: And if people are interested in taking advantage of the program, the phone number to call is 200-7001 or go to the website, Dr. Buckman, thank you so much for providing the information. We appreciate it. 

Peter Buckman: Thank you. 

Ryan Nobles: Thank you for being here.

See the video at right for the full interview.

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