PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and two local cardiothoracic surgeons are making an effort to educate the community about the disease. 

Lung cancer is the deadliest and most aggressive form of cancer among men and women, taking over 127,000 lives each year. Ascension Sacred Heart Cardiothoracic Surgeon Richard Eubanks recommends chronic smokers get an annual CT scan. 

“If you smoked for 20 years and then you smoked one pack per day, that would be 20 pack years,” said Dr. Eubanks. “The current guidelines for lung cancer screening is if you smoked for 20 pack years and you’re between the ages of 50 and 80, then you actually qualify for a free lung cancer screening test.”

Doctors say early detection is key to survival. If they find lung cancer in its early stages, they’re able to surgically remove the mass.

“In early stage one lung cancer we can approach 70%, five-year survival or better depending on what kind of cancer and other factors with regards to the patient,” said  Ascension Sacred Heart Cardiothoracic Surgeon Greg England. 

If the cancer is advanced and spreads in the body, survivability decreases drastically, but death isn’t the only consequence.

“There might be things that could potentially be worse than dying,” said Dr. England. “If you have a very incapacitating tumor, a cancer that’s advanced and  invading bone causing a lot of pain, that’s something to worry about or try to avoid.”

Smokers aren’t the only ones who should get an annual lung cancer screening. If you’re often exposed to smoke or toxins at your job or second-hand smoke at home, you should get scanned, too. 

“If you’re loved one, husband or wife or family member smokes, obviously, if you’re in the car and they’re smoking and you’re constantly being inundated by the smoke in the home, inundated with smoke, secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer as well,” said Dr. Eubanks.

Physician referrals aren’t required to schedule a screening, and those screenings are free for those who qualify. For more information on lung cancer screenings, click here.