HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – During Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, many doctors and healthcare experts are encouraging lung cancer screenings among people who may be more at risk.

That’s because lung cancer is often not diagnosed until it is advanced and difficult to treat. Statistics show lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death.

Saturday, November 11th, is National Lung Cancer Screening Day.

Huntsville Hospital (HH) staff say they are encouraging current and former smokers to ask their doctor about a low-dose lung cancer screening CT exam.

HH thoracic surgeon Dr. Paul Speicher said this kind of screening is the gold standard test for detecting lung cancer even before symptoms are present.

“There are no needle sticks, no scopes, no IVs. Nothing,” Dr. Speicher explained. “It’s a fraction of the radiation of a standard diagnostic CT scan. It just involves going in the lay on the CT scanner table. They have you hold your breath and about five seconds of sliding through the big open-air doughnut, and then the test is done and there’s no recovery time.”

As far as who should be screened, that depends on age and smoking history.

“The guidelines say that anyone between the age of 50 and 80 years old who has a 20-pack year smoking history,” he said. “What we mean by 20-pack years is the equivalent of smoking one pack a day for 20 years, or half a pack a day for 40 years or two packs a day for 10 years. Anyone who meets those criteria should talk with their doctor or health care provider about whether or not they qualify for screening.”

HH staff said lung cancer screening is quick, safe and covered by most insurance plans plus Medicare.

If you don’t have a primary care doctor and don’t have insurance, you can reach out to the HH Medical Mall Imaging Center located at 1963 Memorial Parkway in Huntsville to try and figure something out. The phone number is (256) 265-7870.

For more information on lung cancer and lung cancer prevention, click here.