Saving lives by detecting and treating lung cancer in its earliest stages. | MedStar Health

Saving Lives by detecting and Treating Lung Cancer in Its Earliest Stages.

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Dr Ankit Madan talks with a female patient during an office visit at MedStar Health.

Pictured above: are Dr. Ankit Madan meets with a patient.

A new program at MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center aims to reduce lung cancer deaths in the community by screening high-risk patients before they start showing symptoms.

The screening, launched in 2021, is offered to patients who fit the high-risk profile for lung cancer—those between the ages of 50 and 80 who are current smokers or have quit within the last 15 years. Patients must also have a history of smoking one pack per day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

Longtime smoker Yulonda Williams is among the patients the program hopes to help.

The 50-year-old phlebotomist has been a smoker for 27 years. She says she has been able to stop smoking for months at a time using various methods including wearing a nicotine patch and using a nicotine inhaler. She quit cold turkey once and went five years before picking up the habit again. She says that quitting for good is a goal she still struggles to achieve.

“I have all the tools to quit, but it’s not easy,” says the Baltimore resident. “And the older I get, the harder it is to change my habits.”

She says that she will likely get the screening, which is a low-dose CT scan, so she can take the measures necessary to treat any potential findings.

“If I got the scan, and they found something concerning, I would give up cigarettes in a heartbeat,” she says. “But I want to stop smoking now, so it doesn’t come to that.”

Nationally, about 60% of low-dose CT scans uncover lung nodules and findings that require additional care. MedStar Health hematologist Ankit Madan, MD, says that even if there are no findings on the initial scan, patients in the program continue to be screened once a year for the next three years.

Dr. Madan hopes that early screening for lung cancer will soon become as commonplace as screenings for breast cancer.

“We often catch breast cancer in stage 1 or 2 because mammograms have become so routine,” he says. “We hope this lung cancer screening goes mainstream and is incorporated into regular practice, just like mammograms and colonoscopies.”

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, making up 21%.1 Dr. Madan says the symptoms of lung cancer typically begin to show once the cancer is already in advanced stages – making the need for this screening even greater.

“Most of the time, early-stage lung cancer is only caught because the patient received a CT scan for another reason, and the lung finding is incidental,” he says. “But if we can identify it in earlier stages, there is a greater chance of survival.”

In addition to the screenings, MedStar Health offers free smoking cessation classes that give smokers the tools and extra boost they need to quit successfully. To learn more about the smoking cessation classes or to register, call 855-218-2435.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes,” says Dr. Madan. “Our goal is to give patients access to resources that could possibly save their lives.”


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To learn more about MedStar Health’s programs and initiatives across Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region that are contributing to healthier communities, visit Health or email