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Published on November 04, 2014

Honoring Veterans with Good Health

Spartanburg Regional holds lung cancer screenings for veterans

As the nation honors veterans on Veterans Day, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System (SRHS) is partnering with the Lung Cancer Alliance, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Veterans and Military Officers Association of America to offer free lung cancer risk assessment screenings to veterans.

Veterans are among those at the highest risk for lung cancer, and SRHS is holding Veterans Lung Screening Day on November 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute. Veterans will take a risk assessment, and then, if necessary, will be scheduled for a low-dose CT scan.

Lung cancer kills 19 people every hour and causes more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined - colon, breast and prostate. Veterans have a 25 to 50 percent higher risk of lung cancer than civilians, because smoking rates are higher for those in the military than the general population. People over age 55 are at the highest risk. Those who smoked at least one pack of cigarettes per day over 30 years or two packs a day over 15 years are also at the highest risk.

But not everyone who is diagnosed with lung cancer smokes. Every year, more than 3,000 Americans who have never smoked are diagnosed with lung cancer. 

Second-hand smoke or exposure to carcinogens while in the military can also heighten the lung cancer risk. These carcinogens include Agent Orange, radon, asbestos, diesel fuel exhaust and other battlefield emissions.

What does lung cancer do to my body?

While lung cancer may take decades to develop, symptoms do not usually become obvious until the cancer has already grown into late stage when survival is less than 15 percent.

When a person has lung cancer, abnormal cells in their lungs cluster together to form malignant tumors. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells grow without order or control and destroy the healthy lung tissue around them.

A tumor could be in the lungs without causing pain or discomfort. Common symptoms include a cough that gets worse over time, hoarseness, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood or frequent lung infections.

Luckily, after increasing for decades, lung cancer rates are decreasing nationally, as fewer and fewer people smoke cigarettes.

So how can you protect yourself?

There are ways to create a healthier lifestyle and prevent further damage to your lungs:

Don’t Smoke.

There is no risk-free level of tobacco smoke. The most important thing a person can do to prevent lung cancer is to never start smoking or quit as soon as possible.

Maintain a Healthy Diet.

Choose a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Food sources of vitamins and nutrients are best. Avoid taking large doses of vitamins in pill form, as they may be harmful.

Test Your Home for Radon.

Radon is the result of broken-down uranium. It is a radioactive gas that cannot be seen, felt, smelled or tasted. Uranium occurs naturally in the soil, and the fear is that homes may have been built over natural deposits, creating high levels of indoor radon exposure, which can lead to lung cancer.

Know What You Are Being Exposed to in the Workplace.

Gasoline, diesel exhaust, arsenic, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas and chloromethyl ethers are all carcinogens and may be present in work environments. Talk to your employer about limiting exposure.

Keep Away From Secondhand Smoke.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 60 known carcinogens, or cancer causing agents. These carcinogens interrupt normal cell development, otherwise known as the onset of cancer.

Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute

Screening those at high risk with low-dose CT scans before symptoms occur can identify lung cancer at an early and curable stage. Individual risk for lung cancer will vary and screening may involve some potential harms.

The screening, available only by physician order, is a noninvasive, painless procedure using low-dose X-rays to screen the lungs for cancer. The scans show greater detail than standard chest X-rays and can detect smaller cancer nodules.

Veterans should call 864-560-7999 to register.

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