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Lung screening program could help catch cancer early


MRI scan of the lungs
MRI scan of the lungs

La Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) – Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women.

A screening clinic at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse has a tool to help identify the disease early.

La Verne Johnson started smoking at a very early age, earlier than many would think.

“When I was nine years old and I’m 64 today,” Johnson explained. “So I’ve been smoking for 55 years.”

He tried quitting a number of times, but couldn’t. He even put off doing any screenings for cancer for the last three years because he figured he had something.

“I didn’t want to know about any cancers so I never let them run it, ever in my life,” Johnson said.

That changed recently when Johnson found new motivations to get healthy. That’s when he got screened using low-dose computerized tomography. The program by Mayo Clinic screens those high risk for lung cancer to catch it early.CT scan machine

“By the time someone presents with symptoms of lung cancer it may be farther progressed and harder to treat,” Jenny Prinsen, N.P. with Mayo Clinic Health System said.

In fact the National Institute of Health found the survival rate for lung cancer is only 18.6 percent, but jumps to 56 percent if it’s found early.

“If by going through the program we identify a lung cancer early it may be the decision that saves their lives,” Prinsen said.

Man talks with healthcare professional.
La Verne Johnson talks with a healthcare professional.

Doctors found no spots on Johnson’s scan surprising himself and doctors. He even was able to quit smoking through the use of medications and hasn’t smoked in six weeks.

“For the last six, seven weeks I’ve felt great,” he explained. “I’ve felt a lot better about life. I’ve seen a lot of people die of cancer including my parents.”

For those who are not at the step of quitting yet, Mayo Clinic will still accept you into the program. Those who’ve tried to quit and wasn’t able to, health professionals say keep trying.

“Knowing that even if they’ve tried to quit once and failed, that’s OK. Every quit attempt is a good attempt,” Prinsen added.

If someone goes through the program and they find no spots on the scan will continue to do follow up scans each year. If a spot is found, follow up scans may be more frequent than that.

Jeremy Culver

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