Early detection of lung cancer saves lives

Low-dose CT lung screening saves tens of thousands of lives each year. As a Screening Center of Excellence, Orange Coast Medical Center continues its commitment to helping more patients beat this deadly disease.

Lung cancer accounts for 27 percent of all cancer deaths – not because it’s the most prevalent cancer, but because it has historically been so difficult to detect in its earliest, most-treatable stages. Two-dimensional chest X-rays aren’t sensitive enough to detect tiny nodules and traditional Computerized Tomography (CT) exposes patients to higher levels of radiation.

“Most people don’t realize that lung cancer is responsible for more deaths than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined,” says Jack F. Jacoub, M.D., medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at Orange Coast Medical Center.


A nodule is an abnormal spot or mass found on the lungs. Although a cause for concern, lung nodules are common and often benign. Yet careful monitoring for even the smallest changes can be indicative of something more serious.

A low-dose CT scan takes a series of X-rays to produce both 2-D views of the chest as well as 3-D images of the lungs. Taken from different angles, these pictures provide the needed details to diagnose both cancerous and non-cancerous lesions.

Orange Coast Medical Center adopted low-dose CT scans four years ago as an early lung cancer-screening tool for high-risk patients. With an established high-quality screening model of excellence in place, lung cancer specialists at Orange Coast Medical Center collaborate through a multi-disciplinary approach to provide coordinated patient care. Among these specialists is a designated nurse navigator who supports patients from their very first appointment, creating a seamless, less-stressful environment for healing.


The American Cancer Society estimates that over 158,000 Americans will die from lung cancer in 2015, with 221,200 new cases diagnosed. Tobacco smoking causes 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer cases, and studies have shown that the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of years smoked.

For this reason, the Lung Cancer Alliance recommends low-dose CT screening for high-risk individuals – those who have smoked at least one pack a day for 30 years, are 55 to 74 years of age, and a current or former smoker within the previous 15 years.

The benefits are highly significant. A landmark study, known as the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), found that low-dose CT lung screenings reduced cancer deaths in the high-risk population by 20 percent compared to the standard chest X-ray.

“As physicians, we look for outcome data, and that’s exactly what this study is. It unequivocally demonstrated that low-dose CT scans for lung cancer saves lives,” says Dr. Jacoub. “Stage 1 lung cancer has more treatment options and a higher cure rate than Stage 4 lung cancer. More screening means early diagnoses and more cancer survivors. That’s where our focus needs to be.”


The dedicated efforts of physicians, technicians, nurses and staff led the Lung Cancer Alliance to recognize Orange Coast Medical Center as a Screening Center of Excellence. To date, there are only four centers in Orange County that have attained this prestigious certification and only 21 in the entire state of California.

“Short-term, our hope is that high-risk patients join physicians in viewing lung cancer screening as part of their preventative health portfolio. Long-term, with diligent annual screening at state-of-art facilities such as Orange Coast Medical Center, we hope to see patient cure rates skyrocket. That can be a viable reality,” says Dr. Jacoub.

For more information, please call our designated nurse navigator at (714) 378-7650, or visit our section on Cancer Care.