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Hi ! My name was Tina and I’m 56 yrs. old I lost my dad to lung cancer in 2004, he was 77 and had smoked his entire life. Now my sister is dying from small cell lung cancer. She is 67, but hasn’t smoked in 20 years. I am a previous smoker, but quit 5 years ago. I stopped at  34 for 10 years, but started again at 44 then stopped 5 years ago. I’m so terrified I’m next! I’m losing sleep over this! 

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Hi, Tina,

There is a screening program for lung cancer that uses low-dose CT scans to check for nodules in the lung. Small lung nodules are most often NOT cancer, but rather inflammation, scar tissue from past infections, etc. If there are nodules that aren't especially suspicious, they usually recommend a re-scan in a few months to see if any have changed in size or otherwise appear suspicious. If not, the nodule(s) can be followed once a year--like getting a mammogram, only more painless.

Talk to your doctor about your eligibility for the screening. Generally you have to be over 55 and have 30 pack-years of smoking (1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.). And you must have quit smoking within the past 15 years, I believe. So seems to me you'd be eligible. And even if you're not eligible to have the scans covered by insurance, a scan is only a couple hundred dollars out of pocket. 

Given the family history, I think the screening would give you some peace of mind. And even if it does turn up cancer, the earlier it's found, the more likely it can be successfully treated.

So I'd suggest getting an appointment with a pulmonologist familiar with screenings--many hospitals have screening programs.

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Great advice from Lexie. Only thing I would also suggest is seeing what your health care providers policy is for screening tests. Kaiser has a protocol that some one should get low dose CT scan annually.  It is suggested that heavy smokers, people who have a family history and over the age of 55 should have the screening done.

But you need to ask. I had a nodule that was found in 2004 and we watched for a few years. Then I moved and switched out of Kaiser. Switched back to them in 2015. They never suggested I get a CT scan annually so I had to suggest it last year when I couldn't kick a cough. Sure enough that nodule had grown. I cant help but wonder how much sooner we would have found it if I was screened per their protocol.

Always advocate for yourself!

Peace

Tom

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Hi Tina: I quit smoking over 40 years ago. I have been always quite active in sports, eat healthy, did not drink alcohol or soda and hardly ever ate sweets. I don't mean to sound perfect but growing up I did not have the luxury to do those things. I was diagnosed this year with stage III b NSCL cancer. I was also diagnosed with  COPD, although  it is mild, I am sure it was caused by smoking.

I am not trying to scare you but it is obvious that we have no control over what happened in the past  and there is little gain dwelling on it. You did the sensible thing by stopping smoking and your next objectives should be:

1-) As the previous posters said, get a cancer screening once or twice/year. Most cancer clinics/hospital offer them and they are not that expensive even if you pay out of pocket.

2-) Exercise, exercise and exercise.  There is no excuse for not exercising even if walking in place. Our lungs need help as we age and they needed it more when we abuse them. Exercise will also make you feel good and lessen your worries. I wish you the best.

 

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Hi Tina,

As others have said, a low dose CT screen is important (I think most important) - even if it's not covered by insurance.  I won't go through my whole story, but I have a strong family history of cancer as well.  I didn't know anything about low dose CT scanning - mine was found by my PCP at my annual check up. 

I was having a conversation with my oncologist the other day about my family history.  He said that his belief, and there is a lot of research supporting this, getting cancer over 50 is random.  For sure smoking increases your risk, but it won't benefit you in  any way to blame yourself for the past. There are many people that smoke for their entire lives and never get lung cancer. I think what's important  now is to take the very best care of yourself in terms of nutrition, exercise and hydration.  But even then, as we age  we are at an increased risk of cancer.  

Wishing you the best and know that we're here to support you!

Deb

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By all means get a LDCT. Two and a half years ago, my PCP had me get one. I had one two or three years before then and all was clear, but I went ahead and had another which lead me to being diagnosed with stage 3A NSCLC. While not a great diagnosis to receive, especially since I still had no symptoms, its still a lot better than waiting for symptoms to appear and being found to be Stage 3B or Stage 4. Just saying the earlier you find out, the better the likely outcome.

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