While Lung Cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, it’s the deadliest of cancers among men and women across the nation. Dr. Eugenio Najera said some people don’t know how prevalent lung cancer is.

“If you take all the cases in the United States, unfortunately, it kills more people than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined,” Dr. Najera said. “So, out of all the cancers that exist, this is the most serious one because of the number of cases and how lethal it can be.”

Since smoking is common in the Sooner State, he said he sees a lot of lung cancer cases. While it is the most deadly, things can be done to prevent it or catch it early. One thing people can do to lower their chances of getting lung cancer is to quit smoking. Dr. Najera said he knows quitting is hard, but it’s worth it.

“I tell my patients to not get discouraged if they’ve tried quitting smoking in the past and they were unable to because patients who are finally able to quit smoking, it takes them several attempts,” he said. “Sometimes 5, 10, or 15 times.”
He said the benefits of quitting can be seen as quickly as a week after that last cigarette is out.

“Now the risk for lung cancer though that after 10-years, your risk starts coming down,” Dr. Najera said. “And once it’s been 15-years, your risk of lung cancer is of the average population who don’t smoke.”

He said around the 10-year mark, your lungs will heal some, but there will be some permanent damage.

“So something that has helped a lot in the fight against lung cancer is screening chest CTs because unfortunately, lung cancer can be missed on a simple chest x-ray,” he said.

He said the good news about the chest CT is its low-dose radiation test, and no IVs are needed. Dr. Najera said after seeing the benefits of the screening, the preventive task force has adjusted their guidelines for who needs yearly screening.

“So now they say they recommend a screening chest CT once a year starting at age 50 until age 80, and they also went down on the packs a year,” he said. “So now anybody who has smoked one pack per day for 20 years can qualify for the screening.”

If you meet those qualifications, but you quit smoking more than 15 years ago, you don’t need the screening. Dr. Najera said CCMH performed over 200 low dose screenings in 20-20 and 30 of those showed abnormal findings, and three were positive for cancer. He said 26 patients are getting follow-ups. You can request a screening from your family doctor.