CHI St. Vincent offers lung cancer screens on Nov. 11

CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs will join hospitals and clinics across the country on National Lung Cancer Screening Day with a health fair and screenings from 9 a.m. to noon on Nov. 11.

Elizabeth Bright, a nurse at the hospital and its coordinator for low-dose CT lung scans, said the day is intended more as an awareness campaign for Lung Cancer Awareness Month than to have many people get the test that day.

"More than getting a ton of people to have one on that day, they are trying to make awareness of screening for lung cancer and how important it is to catch it early," she said. "So CARTI, UAMS, Baptist, Jefferson Regional, all the hospitals, or the big ones in the area, participate in this event, mostly for awareness. Only 4% of eligible smokers in Arkansas have this done. The national average is about 6%."

Bright compared the low number of people getting screened to when mammograms were first starting.

"Mammograms many years ago started low and then built up to where they're at about 80% of women that are eligible get that done," she said.

"So we're just trying to increase the awareness and how important it is to catch it early, and it's very treatable. So your mortality goes (up) when you catch it at a Stage 1 or 2 compared to what we usually catch it at (Stage) 3 or 4 once you get symptoms. Your life expectancy is less than a year, if you get it in a later stage."

While the screening is not free, Medicare and most insurance plans pay 100% for the test, Bright said. Medical providers will need to contact the hospital to order the scan and get it authorized.

"First of all, it's very cost-effective, and second of all, it's a lot better to catch it earlier because the less expense on the provider if it is cancer," she said. "So I have to have an order, I have to send it to scheduling, get it authorized, and then they would come in on the 11th. We have a registration person, we'll get them registered, and we have a CT person who will do a certain amount in that amount of time."

Bright said to be eligible for the scan, a person must be 50-80 years old and have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history.

"That would mean one pack a day for 20 years, or two packs a day for 10 years, but it needs to be 20 pack-years," she said, noting that Medicare cuts off screening for people at 77. "And you have to have quit smoking less than 15 years ago, so if you put five years ago, you'd be qualified. Certainly, all the current smokers qualify."

To register for the test, contact your primary care physician or Bright at 501-622-1906 no later than Nov. 7.

There will also be hernia and prostate screenings at the event along with information on the hospital's bariatric program.