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Catching Lung Cancer

It's estimated that one in every 10 smokers will develop lung cancer, which claims 157,000 American lives every year.

One of the toughest and deadliest forms of cancer to cure when discovered in its later stages, the probability of surviving lung cancer is high if caught early.

Armed with $4 million in tobacco settlement money and $1 million from Empire Blue Cross, New York City is partnering with 10 medical institutions to provide 10,000 New York smokers free diagnostic screening for lung cancer, called "The Early Lung Cancer Action Program," as News 2's Paul Moniz reports.

Instead of traditional chest X-rays, participants in the innovative new study will receive a high-resolution CT scan.

New York City's goal in providing the tests is to increase the study size to convince the federal government to make CT scanning the gold standard for lung cancer detection.

When caught early, lung cancer requires surgery but no chemotherapy or radiation. Annual CT scans maximize the chances of catching future cancers early. But right now, CT scans are not covered by most insurance plans.

The tests, which take only five-minutes and are painless, normally cost $600.

"It should have a dramatic impact on survival rates or cure rates in lung cancer in New York," said Dr. Claudia Henschke, a radiologist at New York Cornell Weill Medical Center, who headed a 6-year study involving 1,000 smokers, comparing the effectiveness of traditional X-rays with CT scans.

She found that chest X-rays picked up only 15 percent of lung cancer in its early stage, when it is most treatable but the CT scan detected Stage 1 cancer 80 percent of the time.

The chest X-rays can detect nodules only when the reach the size of a quarter but CT scans can pick them up if they are the size of a tip of a ball-point pen when their cure rate is 80 percent or better.

Call (866) NY-ELCAP to participate in the study. You must be at least 60-years-old and smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes a day for 10 years.

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