The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 1, 2014

Smokers encouraged to get lung screenings


The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — Many smokers and former smokers should get annual lung cancer screenings with low-dose computed tomography imagining, local doctors say.

Conemaugh Health System physicians join the U.S. Preventative Services task force in recommending CT screening for those age 55 to 80 who have at least a 30 pack-year history of smoking.

The task force calculates pack-years as the number of years smoking multiplied by the packs of cigarettes smoked each day.

Current smokers and those who quit within the past

15 years should get screenings for early diagnosis of lung cancer, the task force recommends.

“This is a great step forward in preventing deaths from lung cancer,” said Dr. Ibrahim Sbeitan, medical director of the Conemaugh Cancer Care Center.

“Screening smokers with low dose CT technology will help us detect cancers earlier when they are easier to treat.”

Lung cancer remains the greatest cancer killer in America, Sbeitan noted.

Early detection is important, Conemaugh pulmonologist Dr. Christopher Begley agreed.

“About 75 percent of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer have a later stage cancer that has already spread to other parts of the body,” Begley said. “Studies show low dose CT helps find cancer in early-stage tumors.”

Qualified patients age 50 and older should discuss this screening with their primary care physician, Sbeitan said.

Screening, however, is not a guarantee, he added.

“Just because we now have an effective tool for screening for lung cancer does not mean that it is OK for people to keep smoking,” Sbeitan said.

“Tobacco use remains the single most preventable cause of death and disease and all smokers should talk to their physicians about getting help with smoking cessation.”