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November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Aspirus recommends lung cancer screening for those at high risk


Dr. Amanda Eilers, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and Aspirus Health is on a mission to educate patients and the community on the importance of lung cancer screening. While most adults are aware of the recommendation to begin colon cancer screenings (colonoscopies) at age 45, and – for women – mammograms at age 40 and cervical cancer screenings (pap test) by age 21, few people consider lung cancer screening. Yet, the CDC recommends lung cancer screenings. 


According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancers – combined.


Stopping cancer with screening


The goal of lung cancer screening is to find the smallest indicators of disease when they can best be treated. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends yearly lung cancer screening with a low-dose Computed Tomography scan (CT scan) for people who are: 

  • Current or former smokers (quit in the last 15 years)

  • Ages 50-77 (80 for private insurance)

  • More than 20 pack years

    • pack-year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. For example, a person could have a 20 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years.

  • Asymptomatic

    • No new symptoms are required for screening, such as a cough, shortness of breath, unintentional weight loss, coughing up blood, or chest pain.

“In many cases, people with early lung cancer are asymptomatic” says Dr. Amanda Eilers, Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Aspirus Heart & Lung Surgery. “If we identify cancer at an earlier stage and subsequently treat it, then survival rates improve.”


When screenings detect something


What happens when a screening detects something abnormal on one or both lungs?


Aspirus Health offers a lung cancer screening program and a dedicated lung nodule clinic. If a nodule of concern is identified the team can perform minimally invasive, robotic-assisted lung biopsies when needed. Vital diagnostic and staging information can be provided together when Ion and endoscopic ultrasound (EBUS) are performed together under one anesthetic setting.


Aspirus Health’s lung nodule clinic is located at Aspirus Wausau Hospital and brings together the knowledge and skill of a multidisciplinary team of thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, radiologists, radiation and medical oncologists, and pathologists who collaborate to evaluate and treat all patients. If the lung screening indicates the presence of lung nodules, a personalized follow-up care plan is developed, combining the expertise of everyone on the care team.


 In 2021, Aspirus Health became just the second healthcare system in Wisconsin to perform robotic lung biopsies. Aspirus began using a platform called the Intuitive Ion to perform robotic-assisted bronchoscopy. It allows pulmonologists and surgeons to navigate through very tight spots inside the lungs to collect nodule tissues that previously could not be reached.


 “Early stages of lung cancer can be challenging to diagnose since small nodules can be deep within the lungs and difficult to reach,” said Dr. Eilers. “The Ion robot has changed the game on our ability to reach these nodules for an early diagnosis. This is another example of the steps we take to make early diagnoses and provide better outcomes for our patients.”


Making an appointment for a lung cancer screening is easier than ever. In MyAspirus, select Lung Cancer Screening under Schedule an Appointment, or call 715-847-2000, ext. 52605.



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