A newspaper ad prompted 83-year-old Wanda Parkinson of Kearns to volunteer for a lung cancer study. Marcia Michael, a 75-year-old Holladay resident, talked her doctor into screening her for lung cancer after her sister was diagnosed with the disease.
And Claudia Crosland, 62, of Salt Lake City, got checked after hearing a CNN interview last fall with actor Charlie Sheen, who said he regretted that he had started smoking cigarettes but that a scan showed his lungs were healthy.
All three were found to have early-stage lung cancer in screenings that used low-radiation CT (computed tomography) technology, doctors said Friday at a news conference at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. The three are doing well after surgeries to remove the cancer.
A national study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among participants who were screened with low-dose CT. Now Huntsman is offering these lung cancer screenings for current or former heavy smokers between the ages of 55 and 74.
"This is something that's going to save lives," said physician Shamus Carr, an assistant professor in the University of Utah Department of Surgery.
Most lung cancer patients have been in more advanced stages when the disease is discovered, Carr said.
To discover whether patients at high risk of lung cancer would benefit from early screenings, the National Lung Screening Trial followed 53,000 patients, including 3,300 from Utah. They were randomly assigned to have either a low-dose CT or a standard chest X-ray given annually for three years.
Parkinson participated, while Michael and Crosland got the screenings through their doctors.
"I'm probably one of the luckiest girls alive," Crosland said.
When Crosland heard Sheen tell interviewer Piers Morgan he had been screened, "my immediate thought was I need to get tested," said Crosland, who was a smoker for 43 years.
After her January surgery, Crosland posted a message on the Facebook page of the Charlie Sheen Fan Club saying her small cancer mass didn't show up on a regular X-ray but did on the CT scan.
"So, bottom line Charlie Sheen saved my life, literally. . . . thanks Charlie," she wrote.
Michael, with "a lot of nagging," persuaded her husband to be screened, which revealed he had Stage 1 lung cancer, she said.
The screenings at Huntsman cost $200. To qualify, patients must be 55 to 74 years old; have smoked at least 30 pack-years (a pack year equals the number of packs smoked per day times the number of years smoked); have no symptoms of lung cancer; and have no history of cancer within the last five years.For more information about the screening, call the Huntsman Cancer Learning Center at 888-424-2100 or visit www.Utahlungscreening.org.
Lung cancer risks, screenings
The Huntsman Cancer Institute is offering lung cancer screenings for current or former heavy smokers between the ages of 55 and 74. For more information, call its Learning Center at 888-424-2100 or visit www.utahlungscreening.org. Huntsman physicians say the biggest risk factor for lung cancer is tobacco smoking, while another factor is exposure to radon. The Utah Tobacco Quit Line offers free help kicking the habit. Telephone counseling is available 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669). For information on how to test a home for radon, visit www.radon.utah.gov/.