I am a smoker; What am I at increased risk for and what kind of health screening do I need?

Sep 09, 2022 at 03:09 pm by pj

By Maya LaPrade, DO, Center for Family and Sport Medicine 

Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. According to the CDC, “In the United States, cigarette smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths. Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Many are poisons. At least 70 are known to cause cancer in people or animals.” It is very important to make sure that you are taking care of your health and ensuring you are up to date on all your recommended screenings so that any abnormality can be found as soon as possible. As clinicians, we understand tobacco usage is a very difficult habit to break and we are here to help and guide you in every way that we can.

Below are two very important U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) recommendations.

If you are within the ages of 50-80 years and are a current smoker or have quit smoking within the past 15 years, reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss yearly Low-Dose CT scans.  This preventative measure will take images of your lungs and monitor for any concerning findings such as cancerous tumors. It is also recommended that all MEN between the ages of 65-75 who have ever smoked receive a one-time ultrasound of their stomach to see if an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is present.  This test will see if your aorta, the main and largest artery which helps supply blood to your body, is enlarged or damaged. Over time, arteries naturally lose flexibility with tobacco usage shown to further weaken the walls and increase risk of tear or rupture. If a significant enlargement is noted, surgery can often be performed to correct the issue; however, it must be found in time to save your life.

Regardless of how many years you have been smoking, it is also always a good time to discuss decreasing your daily intake and/or quitting. Reach out to your doctor to discuss the various options available to you such as nicotine patches, gum, group support meetings as well as medication that help curb your desire for tobacco. Please stay vigilant with your health, schedule regular appointments with your primary care provider and make sure to bring up screening tests such as these above so that your health remains the number one priority. Take the first step to living a healthier life!

Maya LaPrade, DO, . Dr. Maya LaPrade is a second year Resident Physician with the Family Medicine Residency Program & Sports Medicine Fellowship at Halifax Health. To learn more about the Family Medicine Residency or Dr. LaPrade, visit www.halifaxhealth.org or contact the Volusia County Medical Society at www.vcms.org.

Sections: Clinical