HEALTHWATCH: Sacred Heart Hospital offers new screening for lung cancer

Updated: Monday, September 15 2014, 03:53 PM CDT
HEALTHWATCH:  Sacred Heart Hospital offers new screening for lung cancer story image
Sacred Heart Hospital is offering a new screening for lung cancer.
The test has been proven to reduce death from lung cancer by detecting it in its very earliest stages.
Sacred Heart Thoracic Surgeon Paul Chomiak calls lung cancer a true "silent killer".
"80 % of the time when we see a patient with lung cancer, they're already Stage 3 or 4, meaning the cancer has already spread."
Chomiak's team offers a lung cancer screening that can reduce death from lung cancer through early detection.

Patients in the high risk group get a low dose radiation cat scan. 
Chomiak says there's a clear criteria to determine who should be screened.

"These are patients who are 55 and older who have smoked certain pack years and we define that as smoking approximately one pack daily for thirty years, or over two packs of cigarettes for fifteen years."

Chomiak says a landmark study on the subject showed remarkable results.
"In this high risk population if you put them through a lung cancer screening protocol, this study actually reduced those patients chance of dying from lung cancer by twenty percent."
Chomiak says the screening usually costs between 300 to 500 hundred dollars, and that so far, most insurance companies and medicare don't cover it.  Chomiak says the tests are so important, Sacred Heart is offering them for a flat 99 dollar out of pocket fee.
Chomiak says other patients outside of the high risk group may qualify too.
"If they have a history of emphysema, or if they have a prior family history of lung cancer, if that is the case, the entry level is age fifty."
Chomiak's nurse navigator Sally Dupre' makes sure potential high risk patients qualify for the screening.
"Once you know what's going on, you can make a plan and you can do something."
Dupre's job is to guide patients through further tests, coordinate  appointments quickly and treatment, if needed.

Chomiak says he's been told the price of the test is about equal to three cartons of cigarettes.
"You try to make a decision, am I gonna buy more cigarettes, or am I gonna enroll in a program that may save my life?"

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