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Advancing Care - 2023 Issue 10

Advancing Care
Kimberly Rivera, Trauma Programs coordinator (center), with two of YNHH’s Trauma Survivors Network volunteers, Dylan Lindhahl and John Redfield.


The how, when and why of lung cancer screening

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, taking the lives of nearly the same number of people who will die from colon, breast and prostate cancer combined. While you may fear a diagnosis of lung cancer, a simple exam offers the best opportunity to find cancer early in high-risk individuals - and can give you the best chance for a positive outcome. 

Why should I screen for lung cancer?

A key to surviving lung cancer is catching it in its earliest stages when it is most treatable, said Benjamin Newton, MD, a medical oncologist with Smilow Cancer Hospital and assistant professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology) at Yale Cancer Center. “The survival rate for lung cancer is based on the stage of the cancer at the time of the diagnosis. A higher stage means that the cancer has spread more. The earlier that a lung cancer is diagnosed, the more likely it is that treatments can eliminate it,” he said. 

Early-stage lung cancers are much more amenable to better long-term control through surgery, radiation treatment and medical therapy," Dr. Newton said. This is why screening is so important. In addition, early-stage lung cancer almost never causes symptoms, so the main way to diagnose it is with a scan.”   

Who should be screened for lung cancer? 

Smoking, or exposure to tobacco products in any form, is the major risk factor for lung cancer. Statistics show that cigarette smoking is linked to approximately 80 - 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. Using other tobacco products such as cigars also increases the risk of lung cancer, as does secondhand smoke. 

There is concern that vaping and e-cigarette use may also increase lung cancer risk. “We do not yet have the kind of long-term research that would confirm the health implications of using these products, but there is clear reason to think that vaping and e-cigarette use could cause lung cancer too,” Dr. Newton said. 

The Smilow Cancer Hospital Lung Cancer Screening Program uses low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans to detect lung cancer in smokers and former smokers who exhibit no symptoms of the disease. Anyone between the ages of 50 and 80 who currently smokes and has smoked an average of one pack per day for at least 20 years should be screened for lung cancer. People who fit the “20 pack year” smoking history profile but have quit within the past 15 years should also be screened. 

“Pack years” are calculated by multiplying the number of packs smoked a day by the number of years they’ve been smoking. A person who smoked two packs a day for 10 years, for example, would have 20 pack-years. 

While quitting smoking is the most effective strategy to prevent the development of lung cancer, the risk stays elevated up to 15 to 20 years after you’ve stopped. “That’s why lung cancer screening is so important. If you wait until you have symptoms, the cancer is much more likely to have already spread,” Dr. Newton said. 

How is lung cancer screening done? 

Low-dose CT scans require no preparation – there are no medications, no needles, and you can eat and drink before and after the scan. The entire exam takes about a minute. 

Are you concerned about exposure to radiation during the scan? According to Dr. Newton, low-dose CT imaging provides nearly 80 percent less radiation exposure than a standard CT. “The radiation dose from a low-dose CT is similar to the amount received by a patient having mammography,” he said. 

Another benefit: CT scans can highlight health concerns other than lung cancer, including heart abnormalities, aneurysms and other cancers.  

Screening for lung cancer with a yearly CT scan is covered by many insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, for eligible patients.

Get help to quit smoking 

The best way to prevent lung cancer? Don’t smoke. The next best? Quit smoking if you’ve started. Lungs can actually get healthier over time, so quitting decreases your chances of developing cancer, according to Dr. Newton. 

Smilow Cancer Hospital offers a stop smoking program that aims to help patients quit by combining counseling and evidence-based treatment options, including medications and behavioral strategies. The program uses the appropriate treatment based on each patient’s individual situation and history with smoking. Telehealth services are also available. 

The cessation program is offered to all patients being treated at Smilow in Connecticut. For information about enrolling in the Tobacco Treatment Program, call 203-688-1378 or send an email to [email protected]

I have lung cancer. What happens next?  

A multidisciplinary team of experienced clinicians reviews every single case to determine a coordinated, personalized response to a person’s lung cancer diagnosis. Dr. Newton points to the collective experience of the national and international experts at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center, where the medical teams can offer patients with advanced lung cancer a wider array of options that may include targeted therapy, immune therapy or clinical trials. 

“We have more tools than ever in the fight against lung cancer. This means that we are able to bring the best available resources to our efforts to help patients with lung cancer in our community,” he said.

How can I be screened for lung cancer? 

If you are worried about developing lung cancer, interested in more information about the Smilow Cancer Hospital Lung Cancer Screening Program, or want to schedule a consultation, call 203-200-LUNG (5864) or send an email to [email protected]. You can also talk to your primary care provider if you think you met the screening criteria and request a referral. 

Symptoms of lung cancer 

Early symptoms may be mild, or they may be dismissed as common respiratory issues. This can lead to delays in being diagnosed. The most common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Cough that does not go away
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss with no known cause
  • Lung infections that keep coming back

If you have any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider as soon as possible. 

If you don’t have a primary care provider, call 888-700-6543 for information on physician specialties, office hours and locations as well as insurance plans accepted.

Trauma survivors offer hope, path to a “new normal” 

Justin Vanderharten never used to be superstitious – until Sept. 13, 2019, a day which was a Friday. 

On that day, the East Haven native, then 26 years old, was riding his motorcycle when he took a corner too fast and crossed the yellow line. He was struck by a car and subsequently transported by ambulance to Yale New Haven Hospital. There he discovered he had suffered fractures in his elbow, forearm, wrist and leg, as well as a severed artery in his right leg. Trauma physicians attempted to save his foot, but it quickly became apparent that it would need to be amputated above the ankle. 

Read more about the trauma survivor program >   

Changing your diet can help with menopause symptoms

We all experience a variety of physical changes as we get older. However, menopause comes with a unique set of challenges. Changes to diet can go a long way in helping to manage symptoms.

Read more about diet and menopause>

Colds, Flu, RSV, oh my! Where to find the care you need 

’Tis the season when respiratory viruses spike. But how do you know if it’s a cold, the flu, RSV or COVID? And where do you turn? Start with your doctor, but the following guide can help you choose the most right setting to get the care you need – which may save you time, money and get you better sooner.

If you need immediate care for a life-threatening illness or injury, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Visit our guide to the best treatment

Holiday wishes for pediatric patients at YNHCH

The annual Wish Book, a gift list for Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital patients, is a catalog of various items that can help make a real difference in the life of a sick child, a worried parent, or a family struggling with illness. The online catalog includes items hospital staff have suggested to help keep young patients’ spirits up through play and entertainment. Many Wish Book gifts are items families can’t purchase themselves.

The items in the latest catalog are designed for gift-giving throughout the year, not just the holidays. View this year’s Wish Book to order an item online or make an online donation and make a difference in the lives of our pediatric patients and their families! 

Find a provider at YNHH

Are you looking for a physician? Call 888-700-6543 or visit our Find a Doctor feature for information on physician specialties, office hours and locations as well as insurance plans accepted. Many of our physician practices offer telehealth video visits for your convenience. 

Billing questions? 

Yale New Haven Health offers financial counseling to patients and families. Spanish-speaking counselors are also available. To make an appointment with a financial counselor, call 855-547-4584.