Former Idaho National Laboratory (INL) workersâ€”both union and non-union, workers and managementâ€”can now receive a free test to detect early lung cancer.
This program is funded and supported by the Department of Energy .
"In the U.S., there are 160,000 deaths each year from lung cancer," said Steven Markowitz, MD, the occupational medicine physician who directs the screening program. "There are 800 deaths caused by lung cancer each year in Idaho.
"Only 10-15 percent of people survive lung cancer because they come in late," he said. "For 80-90 percent of people, their first symptoms are when they are coughing up blood and have shortness of breath.
"Clearly, we need early detection," said Markowitz.
In the 70s, it was determined that chest x-rays did not work for early detection of lung cancer, he said. In the 70s, the Japanese determined early detection of lung cancer can be determined by low-dosage CT scans.
These same results have been replicated in the U.S., he said.
"Low-dose CT scans can save lives and reduce lung cancer," the doctor said.
"Because many former INL workers were exposed to lung cancer causing agents, such as radiation, silica, asbestos and beryllium, utilizing low-dose CT screening for early lung cancer detraction has the potential to save lives," said Markowitz.
The Early Lung Cancer Detection Program is available to former INL workers who meet pre-determined work, age and smoking criteria for lung cancer risk.
The criteria is:
Â° Each person must be at least 50 years old.
Â° Occupational exposure.
Â° Each person must be at least a pack a day cigarette smoker for 10 years.
Â°Â Only former employees who worked at the INL before 1997 can apply for this free screening.
"You don't want a low dose of radiation if it's not needed," Markowitz said.
From 1943 to 1989, people designed and built nuclear weapons, the doctor said. Exposures were not well controlled.
From 1990, people have worked to clean up nuclear sites.
Having done the work, we are honoring the workers in this way," said the doctor.
Former INL employees may call toll-free 1-866-CATSCAN or 1-866-228-7226 to find if they are eligible.
"There's not a long wait now [for screenings]," said Markowitz. "After calling the toll-free number, people will be questioned and then asked to sign a consent form.
"The request will be reviewed by human subjects," he said.
Asked how long before results are known, Markowitz said, "The results are read that day or the next day. It takes from a day or two to about a week for people hear their results."
"If there is anything urgent, you will hear right away," said Amy Manowitz, who handles the screenings.
In Idaho Falls, the screenings for former INL workers are conducted by Dr. John Strobel at Teton Radiology on Woodburn in Idaho Falls.
The screening takes 30 seconds, Strobel said. The whole screening takes about five minutes.
Markowitz said they hope to conduct 200 screenings of former INL workers by Jan. 31, 2013. There's another 600 screenings available next year.
This Worker Health Protection Program is operated by Queens College of the City University of New York and the United Steelworkers with funds provided by the DOE. The primary goals of the program are to detect illnesses at an early stage when medical intervention may be helpful and to determine if these illness are occupational in origin.