VA Partnership to Expand Lung Cancer Screenings
GO2 Foundation Announces Partnership with VA
The VA recently announced a new partnership to increase awareness and expand resources for lung cancer screening for Veterans. This is big news because cancer is more prevalent among veterans than the general population.
VA and GO2 Foundation
In June 2020, the VA announced a partnership with the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer in an effort to increase awareness about lung cancer screening. Just like checking for breast cancer with mammograms and colon cancer with colonoscopies, there are now ways to screen for lung cancer too.
The GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer was founded by patients and survivors of lung cancer. A national network of over 750 centers of excellence, the foundation works to change the reality of living with lung cancer. They do this by:
- Sharing information and support services
- Support research efforts that improve patient care
- Expanding access to lung cancer care
- Raising awareness about lung cancer
- Working to reduce the stigma of lung cancer
Though this partnership is new, the GO2 Foundation has a history of working with military communities. The Lung Cancer Research Program is a significant achievement of the GO2 Foundation and has become one of the largest lung cancer research programs over the past 10 years. This program exists within the Congressional Directed Medical Research Program and is administered by the Department of Defense.
An estimated 900,000 Veterans are at risk for lung cancer due to age, tobacco use, and environmental exposures – some related to military service. The VA diagnoses 7,700 Veterans with lung cancer each year.
Smoking contributes to over 80% of lung cancer cases in the U.S. The GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer also lists the following risk factors:
- Pipe smoking
- Marijuana use
- Radon exposure
- Asbestos exposure
- Secondhand smoke
- Military service
- Environmental exposure
- Family history
Military service increases the risk of lung cancer in two ways. First, rates of smoking among military service members are higher than the general population. Exposure to environmental hazards during military service – like Agent Orange, asbestos, fuel exhaust, smoke from burning oil, and kerosene heaters in tents can also lead to increased risk for lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Screening
Limiting factors that lead to lung cancer is the best way to prevent this disease. Catching the disease early through screening is a great way to improve the outcome of a lung cancer diagnosis.
Screening for lung cancer is done with low-dose computed tomography. This is a type of CT scan that can detect abnormalities in the lungs. Smokers are among the highest risk for developing lung cancer. Therefore, a person is generally eligible for screening if they meet the following criteria:
- Between the ages of 55 and 80
- A 30 pack-year smoking history
- A current smoker who quit within the past 15 year
Pack-year history is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years a person has smoked. For example:
- Smoking 1 pack per day for the past 30 years equals a 30 pack-year history
- Smoking 2 packs per day for the past 15 years equals a 30 pack-year history
If you meet any of these criteria, speak to your primary care doctor about lung cancer screening.
VA Resources to Quit Smoking
In addition to the new partnership between the VA and GO2 Lung Cancer Foundation, the VA offers multiple evidence-based programs to prevent lung cancer among Veterans.
The VA offers proven approaches to help Veterans quit including combining FDA-approved medications with counseling programs. This strategy is the best-known approach to become a non-smoker and quitting smoking is one of the best ways to lower the risk for lung cancer.
A Tobacco Cessation Quitline can double the chances of successfully quitting tobacco. Veterans can get support from quitline counselors at 1-855-QUIT-VET.
Similarly, SmokefreeVet is a text message program where Veterans can get daily advice and support via text message. This service can be set up by texting VET to 47848 or visiting smokefree.gov/VET.
An app called Stay Quit Coach is available through the VA app store to support Veterans to quit smoking.
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About the author
Chelsea Bostelman is a registered nurse who stays busy with freelance writing, exploring Europe, and working on a graduate degree in nursing. She founded the Stuttgart Nurse Journal Club to provide underemployed nurses with free continuing education opportunities. A 10-year military spouse, she and her family spend their free time hiking, biking, and eating in southern Germany.