CT scans can detect early signs of lung cancer

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The emphasis of November's Checkup 13 is lung cancer.

It is the number one cancer killer of men and women in the United States, but the earlier the disease is found, the better your odds of survival.

During clinical pharmacist Scott Freeland's rounds at St. Vincent, he sees the sickest of the sick, patients facing organ failure and transplant and it made him worry.

"Just seeing people that are sick, their story is my story, so it could be me that has the same thing that they have and my story may be worse than theirs," Freeland said.

He knew he was at risk for lung cancer, growing up breathing in second-hand smoke, then smoking himself for eight years. Though he had no symptoms, he signed up for a screening.

"I had a CAT scan, a CT scan of my lungs," Freeland said.

"Up to two-thirds of patients with lung cancer have no symptoms until very late in the course and, at that point, it's often very difficult to cure the patient of the cancer, because it has spread," said Dr. Richard Freeman, a thoracic surgeon at St. Vincent.

Freeman says the latest studies show low-dose CT scans cut lung cancer deaths by 20 percent.

"CT screening is designed to catch or pick up lung cancers early, when they have a higher potential to be cured," he said.

During a scan, a technician moves you into position where they can get an image. The procedure takes about three minutes.

In Freeland, they found a small nodule on his left lung.

"The fact that it is calcified means it's probably been there about five years and it's unlikely it will grow at that point," Dr. Freeman said.

It's a relief for Freeland, who is grateful for the new technology.

"It's not paid for by all insurance companies yet. We are one of the first centers in the U.S. and the Midwest to be able to provide it through a partnership with our radiologist," Dr. Freeman said.

"The fact that I don't have a major problem and I've had this exposed, I'm a lucky guy right now," Freeland said.

If you would like to know your status, for Checkup 13 this month, you may call to register for a reduced $99 CT scan at one of several central Indiana locations. To qualify, you must be 45 or older and have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 20 years.

Participating Facilities
St.Vincent Indianapolis Hospital
St.Vincent Medical Center Northeast
St.Joseph Hospital
Hancock Regional Hospital

If you have questions, you can talk with the operator on the hotline, which is open until 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 13. The phone number is 1-866-U-CHECK-13 (1-866-824-3251).

You can also request to register online at WTHR.com through midnight Tuesday, November 13.