Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
screening for lung cancer...why I choose VA
My father was a Navy corpsman, and with his encouragement, I knew at a very young age that nursing was my natural career path. When I learned of my opportunity to serve the VA, and manage the lung cancer screening (LCS) program, spearheaded by Dr. Nichole Tanner, I knew right away it was the right work for me and for our Veterans.
In 2014, Charleston was one of eight original pilot sites to test the feasibility of LCS within the VA, and in 2015, our program went live and was made available to all our CBOCs. We have an estimated 5,651 eligible candidates for screening in our VISN and so far have screened about 3,500. The program couldn’t exit without the ongoing referrals from primary care. Nursing staff ensures Veterans have accurate smoking histories documented, and if appropriate, primary care providers refer them to me to enroll in the screening program. LCS isn’t for everyone; it comes with significant risks as well as benefits. It is my goal to ensure our Veterans understand their personal risks and benefits so they can make an informed decision if screening is right for them.
Eighty to ninety percent of lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoking and men are 23 percent more likely than women to develop lung cancer, which creates a statistically higher risk for our Veterans. Candidates for LCS are 55 to 80-years-old and have at least a 30-pack year history of smoking. After all, for this particular age group, smoking was used as a reward, and some Veterans say it was encouraged during their time in the service.
In addition to screening, I stress the importance of smoking cessation to my patients. LCS is intended to detect the earliest of lung cancers (long before any symptoms occur), as this is when lung cancer is most curable. It is not, however, a safety net. The best way to reduce one’s risk of developing lung cancer is to quit smoking. I prescribe medications to those who want help, and I get so excited for those who tell me they finally quit when I call to schedule their annual scans.
To date, we have diagnosed 55 cases of lung cancer, with the majority of those being stage I. We can now offer our low dose CT scan in Savannah, making screening much more accessible to our Veterans located south of Charleston. Our multidisciplinary team uses the latest research and national guidelines making our program one of the very best in the country; a service we owe to our Veterans.
Please feel free to contact me with questions related to LCS 843-789-6349, or email: Shannon.firstname.lastname@example.org.