Even patients at low risk can develop lung cancer

WESTON, Fla. – When 84-year-old Leonard Kessler was diagnosed with prostate cancer this past June, doctors sent him in for a full body scan.

He was shocked when a doctor handed him a second diagnosis.

“You know he’s saying you have lung cancer, I said I was on my treadmill the other day and I never smoked,” Kessler said.

While prostate cancer is common in older men, Dr. Dao Nguyen, chief of thoracic surgery with UHealth, said age is not a risk factor for lung cancer and only 10 to 20 percent of cases occur in non-smokers.

“In the majority of cases, lung cancer is detected by imaging of the body for various reasons and these cancers are detected incidentally, he said.

But in high-risk patients, which includes current smokers and those who have a long history of the habit, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screening.

“Studies have shown that there is a 20 percent reduction in mortality of lung cancer when lung cancer screening is applied properly to patients at high-risk for lung cancer,” Nguyen said.

He believes private care physicians need to be the front line for sending high risk patients in for lung cancer screening.

“We have seen patients, early-stage cancer, detected by the lung cancer screen program,” Nguyen said.

Kessler said his daily exercise routine helped make him strong enough to undergo surgery to remove the cancer in his lungs and his prostate cancer was successfully treated.

“My prostate cancer diagnosis was a blessing in disguise, because one doesn’t want to go to the doctor after they’re coughing up blood. It’s a little late,” Kessler said.

USPSTF Current Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines:

-Recommended for people who are 50 to 80 years old and in fairly good health, and currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years and have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history.

-This is the number of packs of cigarettes per day multiplied by the number of years smoked.

-For example, someone who smoked 2 packs a day for 10 years [2 x 10 = 20] has 20 pack-years of smoking, as does a person who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years [1 x 20 = 20].

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.