Breath of Fresh Air



Jeanne Ackerson of Freeman, Mo., was a smoker for three decades. At 60 years old, Ackerson knew the shadow on her chest X-ray last winter wasn’t a sign of good news.

She also knew she had to give up smoking and bought her last pack of cigarettes.

Ackerson was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer in January 2012 after feeling sick for almost 12 months.

University of Kansas Hospital registered nurse
Joann Adams with the LDCT scanner.

“I thought that I was having heart problems,” says Ackerson, who has since undergone radiation and 33 rounds of chemotherapy that left her with permanent damage to the esophagus and kidneys.

Although Ackerson’s cancer has been reduced and is considered stable, she is still fighting for her life and the lives of others. It is her mission to encourage longtime smokers to go to the doctor for lung screenings similar to the new low-dose radiation computerized tomography, or LDCT, scans offered at University of Kansas Hospital for people considered high risk.

“I tried to sign my daughter up, and I encouraged my friends,” says Ackerson, who was impressed when she heard about the LDCT scanning software. “Cancer screening like this would have benefitted me greatly.”

KU Hospital began offering the LDCT lung screenings last fall for qualified, longtime smokers who are 50 or older after receiving funding from the 2012 Treads and Threads fundraiser at Kansas Speedway.

The process takes about one hour — the actual screening takes less than 10 seconds — and is conducted at The University of Kansas Hospital’s Indian Creek Campus.

The screening, which costs $240 and is not covered by most insurance companies, includes same-day results, a meeting with the nurse navigator, coordination with primary care physicians and any necessary referrals.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the screening software is a computer connected to X-ray equipment that emits low-doses of radiation while spiraling through the body and taking comprehensive photos.

The institute states that LDCT screenings have proven to decrease the chance of death from lung cancer in longtime smokers by detecting early-stage lung cancer better than chest X-rays. The institute also acknowledges the risks of LDCT screenings, such as the chance of inaccurate results and the exposure of the chest to radiation. They encourage all patients to work with a physician to select appropriate screening procedures.

Quit For Life

The American Cancer Society offers free information and materials on how to quit smoking for individuals and caregivers. They also offer the American Cancer Quit For Life Program for workplaces and employers. For more information, call (800) 227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

Despite it all, lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, which estimates that 160,340 men and women died from lung and bronchus cancer just last year.

“Lung cancer, by far, causes more cancer deaths than any other cancers worldwide, yet it is the only one not subject to routine screening,” says Terry Tsue, M.D., physician-in-chief for The University of Kansas Cancer Center. “Screening everyone for lung cancer is not effective, but studies have shown low-dose CT screening for those at high risk can lead to early detection and lives saved.”

Ackerson certainly agrees that screening can save lives. She hopes it helps to save hers.

“There’s got to be more outreach to the public about low-dose screening to decrease the amount of deaths,” stresses Ackerson.

To find out more or to see if you qualify for the low-dose CT lung cancer screening, call (913) 588-1227 or (800) 332-6048.