Detecting Lung Cancer

A new study recommends the use of CT scans for detecting lung cancer. If the advice is taken up, it would be the only screening test for lung cancer. Unlike breast cancer where mammograms are used for early detection among higher risk populations, there are no such tests for lung cancer. In my mom’s case, a CT scan saved her life.

Despite the fact that she presented to her doctor with superior vena cava syndrome, a widely known but commonly overlooked side effect of lung tumors, her doctor ordered an X-ray instead of a CT scan. Her 11 centimeter tumor was not detected with the X-ray. Her doctor ordered a CT scan, but the earliest the hospital could schedule the scan was three weeks out. Fortunately, the ER doctor immediately recognized the symptoms of SVCS and ordered a CT scan. Within an hour we had pretty good idea of what we were dealing with. She started chemotheraphy the next day and raditiation therapy the following week.

Looking back, she had symptoms for several months. She didn’t go to the doctor because she couldn’t afford the insurance through her job at Home Depot. Of course, she couldn’t afford to take off work either. As she got sicker, she was weak, and it was hard for her to perform at work. She showed up to work every day and worked to the best of her abilities, but she couldn’t perform her job duties. The Home Depot fired her.

After losing her job, she went to an urgent care facility. She thought she might have pneumonia. They gave her some antibiotics. She sought out a primary care physician who gave her more antibiotics.

Perhaps if CT screens were part of the standard protocol for people at risk for lung cancer, my mom’s cancer would’ve been detected sooner. The top three killers of women are heart attacks, stroke, and lung cancer. If a middle-aged women who has smoked for thirty years presents with a persistent cough and bulged arteries in her neck, I think you should do more than write a prescription. Of course, adoption of screening protocols works best when people have access to affordable insurance and healthcare.

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1 Comment

Filed under The way the world works

One response to “Detecting Lung Cancer

  1. I am really glad you pointed this out. I am all for breast cancer awareness don’t get me wrong, but I think in general people fail to see that lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer does each year. My mom has an apple-sized mass in her left lung that fortunately is benign, however because they waited to do a CAT scan she was incorrectly diagnosed with lung cancer initially. On a related note, this whole CAT scan thing is a symptom of a larger problem in my opinion and that’s the managed care, insurance, and how people get treated on that continuum issue. I watched my mom go through having a stroke and getting treated based on being covered by Medicare. I am now watching my brother deal with his insurance shortfalls in the context of the stroke he had. I think when people don’t have the kind of insurance coverage you get working full time in some large white collar corporation, that they get reduced, sub par care. Everything from the time things took to the rehab centers they did or did not qualify for was all driven by insurance, not actual need. It’s not overt really, but I had to spend long hours at the hospital bugging nurses, doctors, social workers and therapists to make sure my mom got what she needed. People without advocates are at an even worse disadvantage. The study is great, but in general insurance wants to prevent costly measures as long and as much as they can. It’s total bullshit in my opinion. Sorry for the long post. It’s just that your Mom is just another example of how facked up (and discriminatory) the insurance industry is in this country. I watched my mom and dad lose much of the retirement they had worked very hard to save purchasing supplemental insurance so my dad’s catastrophic medical costs when he was ill did not bankrupt them.

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