UMMC hosting screenings on Nov. 12 for National Lung Cancer Screening Day

Published 2:14 pm Monday, October 24, 2022

JACKSON, Miss. – Lung cancer, the top cause of cancer deaths in the nation, is so lethal because it’s most often diagnosed after it’s spread and is more difficult to cure.

That’s one reason why the University of Mississippi Medical Center is passionate about boosting the number of lung cancer screenings performed in the state. The Medical Center on Saturday, Nov. 12 will join with the National Lung Cancer Roundtable, the American College of Radiology and the Radiology Health Equity Coalition to take part in National Lung Cancer Screening Day.

If you are between ages 50-80, currently smoke or quit smoking within the past 15 years, you may be eligible for lung cancer screening through your insurance provider. Screenings will take place from 8 to 11 a.m. at UMMC’s Cancer Center and Research Institute at the Jackson Medical Mall. Organizers scheduled it for a weekend, especially for those who are unable to take time off from work on weekdays.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

“Lung cancer kills more people every year than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined,” said Dr. Pierre de Delva, professor and section chief of general thoracic surgery, director of thoracic oncology and program director of thoracic surgery residency.

Mississippi ranks third in the country for lung cancer deaths and fourth for new cases, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Participants will receive a painless, low-dose CT scan.

“Early detection of lung cancer has a huge decrease in mortality,” de Delva said. “Early detection makes it a lot easier to cure, and provides more options for treatment. It increases the chances of cure significantly.”

Unfortunately, de Delva said, the rate of screening is disappointing and potentially deadly.

“Only about 5 to 10 percent of those eligible are getting screened,” he said. “Some patients don’t know about it. Some physicians don’t refer them. Access is an issue.”

Although screenings are available on weekdays at the Medical Center, UMMC is trying to remove the access barrier for those who have a hard time taking off work.

“We thought this was a great way to provide access and to highlight the need for screening,” de Delva said.

Those at the highest risk for lung cancer often are smokers, especially those who are heavy smokers and who have less access to health care, are uninsured or are underinsured.

“A lot of underrepresented minorities might not have the education to know that this lifesaving tool is available,” de Delva said. “Not having access to screening or the knowledge of how and where to be screened only makes it worse.”

Staff from UMMC’s ACT Center for Tobacco Treatment, Education and Research will be on hand at the event to speak with anyone interested in tobacco cessation resources.

“It’s a good idea to receive counseling to quit smoking if you currently smoke,” said Jonathan Hontzas, a nurse practitioner and co-director of UMMC’s thoracic oncology Lung Cancer Early Detection Program housed in the CCRI.

Those desiring screening are asked to make an appointment by calling 601-984-LUNG (5864). The cost is covered for Medicare and Medicaid recipients and by most health insurance.

The fee is $150 for those who are self-pay. Out of pocket, “these scans would usually cost about $500,” Hontzas said.

“It’s estimated that Mississippi will experience 18,000 new lung cancers and nearly 7,000 deaths this year alone,” Hontzas said. “Part of that is due to our state’s lung cancer screen rate being 5.5 percent of those needing it in the 2021 calendar year. Studies show that lung cancer mortality can be reduced by a minimum of 20 percent through the use of low-dose CT screening.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to offer this on a weekend as we celebrate National Lung Cancer Screening Day with those across the country,” he said. “Lung cancer screening is a tool that has the potential to make a significant impact on the people of Mississippi.

“Early detection is key, and Mississippi’s 24.1% early detection rate is something we badly need to fix.”

To schedule an appointment for the Nov. 12 lung cancer screening event, call 601-984-LUNG (5864).