By Jennifer Bringle
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to change routines and stick closer to home, some may think it’s okay to skip preventative healthcare appointments. But when it comes to regular lung screenings, there’s nothing routine about a scan that can save your life.
For those ages 55-80 who have a history of heavy smoking, currently smoke or quit in the last 15 years, annual screenings are advised. The low-dose CT scan is configured so that patients have minimal radiation exposure.
Oliver Binns, MD, a thoracic surgeon who practices at Asheville Heart, shares five important reasons not to put off a low-dose lung screening:
1. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer for both men and women in the US. More people die of lung cancer than colon, breast and pancreatic cancers combined.
2. Early screening can mean the difference between life and death. Lung cancer is a deadly disease because it’s so insidious in nature, it gets to be advanced before any symptoms occur. “Once symptoms occur, it’s often too late to effectively treat,” said Dr. Binns. “That’s why screening is so important.”
3. Lung screenings are most effective when performed annually. When we first started the screening program, we were finding a lot of advanced-stage cancers, but over the years we’ve actually started to shift the paradigm from late-stage diagnosis to early-stage diagnosis, which has a more favorable prognosis. “It’s longitudinal screening,” said Dr. Binns. “You don’t just get one and you’re done.”
4. COVID-19 prevention measures ensure a safe visit. We’re following all the CDC guidelines—the waiting areas are appropriately spaced, everyone has to wear a mask, you are prescreened before you come into the facility with a temperature check and a brief questionnaire. “With safety measures in place, for us it has been pretty much business as usual, and I think the patients need to realize that,” said Dr. Binns.
5. Multiple screening locations make scheduling an appointment convenient. With six imaging centers where patients can get exams, we get the screening out even to remote areas so they don’t have to drive to Asheville. Across the 18 counties of western North Carolina, we deliver the same standard of care.
If you are anxious about your annual low-dose CT scan, rest assured that your safety is our top priority. Mission Health has committed to enhanced safety protocols designed to ensure that our facilities are among the safest places to receive care.
Oliver Binns, MD, is a thoracic surgeon at Asheville Heart.