Lee Health pulmonologist on the importance and ease of getting lung cancer screenings
Lung cancer poses a significant threat, surpassing combined risks of prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers. Dr. Shyam Kapadia stresses that screenings are a game-changer for people's lives.
Lung cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, killing more men and women each year in the U.S. than any other cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Lee Health is reminding the public of its preventative services and screening processes.
Pulmonologist Dr. Shyam Kapadia has been with Lee Health for five years. One of his focuses is on lung cancer diagnosis and evaluation.
In this interview with WGGU's Tara Calligan, he stresses that lung cancer screenings are a “game changer.”
Kapadia: Lung cancer screening is a relatively new [Lee Health] program. It's similar to other screening programs that are out there. For example, for breast cancer, we do screening mammograms or for colon cancer, we do colonoscopy.
For lung cancer, we have the Lung Cancer Screening Program, and it's been around for four years now. It has a little bit less awareness than breast cancer and maybe colon cancer. But it's it's just as important.
WGCU: Describe why these kinds of screenings are important, especially within the age range, 50 to 80 years old.
Kapadia: Lung cancer screening is really important because lung cancer is a silent disease, and it affects so many people.
In fact, last year, more people died of lung cancer than colorectal, breast and prostate cancer combined, so that's that's an astronomical number.
In fact, last year alone, we lost 127,000 people to to lung cancer, and because it's a silent disease, it's really important to have a screening test that helps us find the cancer early.
People between the ages of 50 to 80, who are current or former smokers or have quit within the last 15 years, and have had a history of smoking at least a pack a day for 20 years or so, are the ones that we really want to hone in on when it comes to lung cancer screening.
WGCU: When a patient is getting these types of screenings, could you provide a 'too long; didn't read' version of what people can expect?
Kapadia: Lung cancer screening is very, very, very easy. In fact, it's much easier than colon cancer screening because you don't have to have a colonoscopy for lung cancer screening. All you have to do is get a CAT scan.
It's a very painless procedure, it takes about 10 minutes. You lie down and we get a CAT scan of your lungs, and we look at how healthy the tissue is, we look to see if there's evidence of any pulmonary nodules, which might represent early stage cancers.
The whole point of lung cancer screening is that we really want to get to that early stage cancer and change the trajectory of the patient's course.
WGCU: What would a patient be looking at in terms of cost?
Kapadia: Lee Health has many available offices and imaging centers, and pulmonologists waiting for these lung cancer screening CAT scans.
It's called screening, so screenings are generally covered by insurances. They are, most of the time, free for our patients. Screening is very important, and everybody should get screened if they meet the criteria.
WGCU: With these screening programs, have you seen any kind of notable benefit or any sort of factor figure that you might want to share with us?
Kapadia: Screening is a game-changer. I've been able to diagnose Stage 1 lung cancer. As a pulmonologist, I knew in the past that finding a Stage 1 lung cancer is kind of like finding a diamond in the rough. I only find a few in my lifetime. But those few really can make a difference for the patient.
When you find Stage 1 lung cancer through a screening program, you are able to change that patient's life, they can undergo a resection and they can be cancer-free just because we caught it early.
Now if you go on and you don't get screened, and you develop Stage 3 and 4 lung cancer, you can expect radiation and chemotherapy, and a lot more of a grueling life ahead. That's why it's really important to get screened.
It just makes me feel so much better when we find this Stage 1 lung cancer and change the trajectory of my patients' life.
WGCU: What advice would you give to a person who may fit all of the criteria to encourage them to get a screening?
Kapadia: For me to see a patient suffered through the Stage 3 or 4 diseases,, it really hurts. To know that there is a screening program like this out there where you can just get a CAT scan and get screened for lung cancer and really change the course of your life is really important.
One of the best things that Lee Health has done over the last several months is they've added something called Ion. This is a game-changing bronchoscopic procedure.
We can go in after the screening CAT scan shows evidence of lung cancer. It's minimally invasive, and we can take a little sample of the lung to find out if people have lung cancer.
What I'm trying to say is that it's it's been a game-changer over the past several years. And technology has become so good that getting a cancer diagnosis doesn't mean the end of the world.
In fact Stage I, Stage 2 diseases are very well-treated, and the outcomes are so much better nowadays. It's so important, especially right now in 2023, to get lung cancer screening, because the technology has gotten so much better. Now we can really help people early in the course of their disease.
Click herefor more information on Lee Health lung cancer screen program.