Emphysema Update 3.1.19
Last month was rather eventful for me. I was invited to participate in a program to screen patients for lung cancers. I fit the criteria of being over 55 (just barely) and a former smoker. One had to be over 55 and either a former smoker within 15 years or currently smoking. You also had to have COPD. While I don’t have the Asthma and Bronchitis that others may have with COPD, I do have Emphysema. They were also particularly interested in the fact that I have a history of spontaneous Pnuemothorax. I haven’t had one in very long time but it is unusual and I don’t fit the criteria for having them. I am not thin or tall nor athletic nor male. So Pulmonologists are always interested.
So the idea of this program is to get yearly Low Dose Cat Scans (LCDT). With using the low dose, you get less radiation. In fact you get more from the earth. It is also highly detailed so all the specialists can get a super clear view of your lungs. The research doc told me it was incredibly fine detail and they get more “slices” than the normal CT Scan. Because of this they are learning how to spot cancers and other abnormalities. Also because it is highly detailed they can see parts of liver, thyroids, etc. In fact they told me I had a fatty liver. Probably because I am overweight.
I learned a lot going through this process. I had to take a class and then one on one with a research doctor. Because it is fairly new they get a lot of false positives. About 30%. Of course, the more they do these scans the more the learn so that number will most likely go down in the future. When I was in the class, the false positive parts of that was highly concerning to many people there. Not me. I guess I think differently.
The number one cancer death in America is from lung cancer. Before this screening began it was fatal. That was because they usually found the spot using traditional methods and by then the cancer was already advanced. With this LDCT Scan, the researchers can see abnormalities sooner when they are easier to treat. Out of 100 people 30 were false positives , something like 6 were positive and three survived, that’s pretty darn good for a fatal cancer. (My numbers are from memory because I don’t feel like getting up and finding the paper,but pretty sure they are accurate.) To me, I would rather chance a false positive, maybe become a true positive and have that chance to survive a lethal cancer. I am totally in.
Lucky me, it turns out that I do not have any abnormalities. Clear for cancer for now. I will do this once a year until I am 65. It turns out that if you smoke you are totally at risk for lung cancer. It is the number one cause. If you had quit smoking , like I did. You are at risk for 15 years after you quit. I quit 7 years ago, so 8 more danger years for me. When I was in the little class so many people wanted to know if they Vaped and/or if they just cut back smoking was it better . The researcher said they are currently researching Vaping, but feel that it is not healthier. You are putting chemicals into your lungs and there is no real regulation on those chemicals. And cutting back doesn’t count.
Speaking of smoking. When I was diagnosed, I worked hard and went through living hell, but I quit smoking. I wanted to live. I wanted to have quality of life even if I couldn’t have quantity. I have to tell you I don’t understand keeping smoking when you know it is killing you, literally. It is a bit like swimming with hungry sharks. There is a good chance nothing will happened, but there is also they chance you get bit. You could avoid it by not swimming with sharks. As far as I know, no one has been fatally bitten by a shark in the desert. I also don’t understand those who have watched a love one die from COPD and continue to smoke. Its weird to me. I know several folks like that.
I basically decided being uncomfortable for a while was more important to me than having my pacifier. Quitting, along with changes in diet, exercise, basically my entire lifestyle has kept me pretty exacerbation free and while this disease is progressive, I have been doing so slowly so far. I plan on hanging around and annoying people for as long as I can
Until next time.
Previous update here: https://theblogofteresa.com/emphysema-update-1-1-19/