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The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking an active role in the early detection, and ultimately, treatment of lung cancer in veterans. Inspired by the success of the National Cancer Institute's National Lung Screening Trial, the VA is in the beginning stages of implementing CT scans.
As reported by DOTmed News, the VA will start “phased implementation” of the CT screenings for lung cancer at six VA hospitals. In a statement sent to DOTmed, the VA has yet to publicly announce which VA hospitals will participate or when the program will begin.
Moreover, the veterans who participate at the initial six VA hospitals will provide feedback that will allow the department to plan a system-wide program and how to best manage it. The VA wants to ensure that the entire scope of the program – from the screening itself to receiving a potential diagnosis – is handled in such a way that it alleviates veterans' concerns instead of adding to it.
The National Cancer Institute's National Lung Screening Trial which published its results in November 2010, found that a low-dose helical or spiral CT scans were more successful at spotting lung cancer than chest x-rays.
Further, the National Cancer Institute looked at 53,454 “current or former heavy smokers” and found that with a CT scan, there was a 20% reduction in deaths from lung cancer.
Based off of the success of the National Lung Screening Trial, the VA hopes to identify potentially high risk veterans who were current or former heavy smokers through early CT screenings.
For veterans, in particular, lung cancer is not solely linked to smoking. While on active duty, many veterans were exposed to chemical agents, toxins and other hazardous materials that could lead to lung cancer. One of the most common toxins active duty service members were exposed to was asbestos.
Over the years, many veterans from all branches, were unintentionally exposed to asbestos while protecting their country. However, Navy veterans who were stationed at shipyards, built ships or served on ships were especially vulnerable to asbestos exposure.
Commonly thought to cause mesothelioma, asbestos exposure is linked to lung cancer. Couple asbestos exposure with heavy smoking, many veterans are at an extreme risk for developing lung cancer.