Detecting lung cancer early can mean the difference between life and death. According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, with more people dying from lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. That is why it is important to have a lung cancer screening.

Lung cancer screening is a valuable preventive health exam that may help to improve patient outcomes through early detection. MemorialCare’s adult hospitals (Long Beach Medical Center, Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills), offer a lung screening program designed to detect lung abnormalities early, such as cancer, when treatments are more effective.

“MemorialCare’s Lung Screening Program has a dedicated nurse navigator at each of our three adult campuses to assist patients and act as a liaison between the patient, primary care or referring physician and hospital,” explains Kitty Campuzano, RN, BSN, OCN, nurse navigator, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “This includes sending reminders to patients and physicians regarding when a screening is due; answering questions about ordering, scheduling, billing and directions to the radiology department to get a CT; verifying doctors are informed of abnormal results; facilitating further workups and ensuring proper documentation; providing patient education and support about the importance of early detection; and providing referrals for smoking cessation.”

As there can be a stigma around smoking, some patients may be reluctant to discuss their smoking with medical providers. MemorialCare’s Lung Screening Program provides a supportive environment with kind, compassionate nurse navigators who listen and are sensitive to each patient’s individual needs.

“When you are sympathetic to a patient’s experience, you can honestly talk about their smoking,” explains Robin Philips, RN, MSN, BSN, PHN, nurse navigator, MemorialCare Cancer Institute, Orange Coast Medical Center.

“Through education and training, the nurse may provide education and resources about smoking cessation. This may assist in the reduction of stress that many patients experience when discussing their smoking habit.”

The good news is that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has updated its lung cancer screening guidelines for individuals eligible for screening by lowering the recommended age range to begin screening from 55 to 50 years of age and reducing the minimum pack-per-year smoking history from 30 years to 20.

The USPSTF recommends a lung screening for individuals who meet the below criteria:

  • Age 50-80 years
  • Have had smoking history of one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years or more
  • Current smokers or those who have quit within the past 15 years

Lung health has been a concern of consumers and primary care physicians since the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with some people suffering from long COVID, which means that symptoms of COVID-19 (including lung-related symptoms like cough and shortness of breath) persist for weeks, months or even years after the initial COVID-19 diagnosis.

“I think COVID-19 and long COVID brought lung health to the forefront and now many primary care physicians are asking, ‘where are you with your lung health,’’’ says Sherri Hoag, RN, MSN, OCN, nurse navigator, MemorialCare Cancer Institute, Saddleback Medical Center.

The increase in attention on lung health has translated into more screenings at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center, Hoag says. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 49 lung cancer screening CTs performed. At the height of the pandemic, in 2020, that number rose to 63, and then to 121 in 2021. This year, the number of lung screenings is expected to surpass last year with 118 people already screened in 2022.

To find out if you’re eligible for a lung cancer screening, call (888) MEMLUNG or take our short quiz