With the advancement of technology we can now detect lung cancer at an earlier stage. Had the testing been available and widely publicized maybe Peter Jennings’ cancer could have been detected earlier and treatment performed with a possible full remission. But we’ll never know whether that would have been the case, and if some doctors and bigwigs have their way, it may be some time before others can benefit from early detection. Lung cancer kills 85 percent of the 174,000 Americans found to have the disease annually within five years of diagnosis, so why don’t we perform tests as we do in the case of mammographies? The early screening for breast cancer has saved countless lives of women who may have otherwise been diagnosed too late. Should we allow the choice for lung cancer screening to be in the hands of doctors? I think not, but for now it is. While some hospitals offer the screening test, health insurance providers don’t cover the cost of the test. One would think that it would be far cheaper for health insurance companies to pay for the screening test than to pay for the long-term hospitalization and medication of someone with full-blown cancer.

A study was conducted called I-ELCAP (International Early Lung Cancer Action Project); Of the 412 people in the study found to have Stage 1 cancer who underwent surgery, 85 percent were alive five years later; the eight patients who declined treatment were dead. The average five-year survival rate for Stage 1 lung cancer is about 70 percent, according to federal statistics. In most cases once a patient comes in with the symptoms of lung cancer it is far past stage 1 and too late for treatment to have any effect.

In my humble opinion I feel we should at least consider screening for those at risk, the long-term high volume smokers. And apparently Nebraska agrees with me. Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is planning the nation’s first free statewide screening for patients who have smoked for 35 years or two packs a day for 15 years. If all goes well it could have a positive ripple effect across America resulting in earlier detection of lung cancer in many cases. The opposition is citing monetary costs as reasoning for not conducting the scans, stating it would cost $115 billion to perform mass scans. But really, who are they to put a pricetag on the value of one’s life?

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