Calling Dr. Bauer …


Dr. Michael Bauer

Dr. Bauer is often asked about lung cancer screening. He explains, we often “screen” people for diseases that, when caught early and treated, can result in a cure or prolonged life expectancy. Mammography for breast cancer, colonoscopy for colon cancer, and PSA levels for prostate cancer are familiar to all. You may not know that low dose chest CT screening for lung cancer has also been recently recommended for high risk populations.

One of the reasons lung cancer is often difficult to treat is that it can occur without any symptoms for many years. By the time a person has difficulty breathing or experiences aches or pains, the cancer has typically gotten so large that treatment or cure is difficult. If we could “catch” the cancer early, it makes sense that there would be more chance for cure.

Chest x-rays or sputum tests have never been effective in screening for cancer. They are just not sensitive enough. We still have no good blood test for lung cancer, although the future for that may be promising. After extensive study and review, our public health experts are currently recommending that low dose chest CT scans can result in saved lives and improved outcomes when done on an annual basis in people who are at “high risk”.

image036-1We currently recommend yearly screening for people who do not have any symptoms are between 55 to 74 years of age – and who are either still smoking or who may have quit within the past 15 years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014, the most recent year numbers are available, 215,951 people in the United States were diagnosed with lung cancer, including 113,326 men and 102,625 women.

Medicare/Medicaid and most insurance carriers will currently cover costs of annual screening. The pros and cons of any screening test need to be carefully considered before signing up! Lots of “false positives” will be discovered. Most of the small spots/nodules found on a CT will be benign. Most good screening programs offer counseling with a program coordinator for an informed decision to be made before enrollment.


Lung Cancer Facts

  • image038-2Lung cancer is the Number One cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the U.S. and world wide.
  • Smoking and cigarettes are the principal risk factor for development of lung cancer.
  • The two types of lung cancer, which grow and spread differently, are small cell lung cancers and non-small cell lung cancers.
  • The stage of lung cancer refers to the extent to which the cancer has spread in the body
  • Passive exposure to tobacco smoke (second hand cancer) also can cause lung cancer.
  • Smoking cessation is the most important measure that can prevent the development of lung cancer.
  • Treatment of lung cancer can involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy as well as newer experimental methods.
  • The general prognosis of lung cancer is poor because doctors tend not to find the disease until it is at an advanced stage. Five-year survival is around 54 percent for early stage lung cancer that is localized to the lungs, but only around 4 percent in advanced, inoperable lung cancer.