According to the American Cancer Society, Black people in America have the highest death rate of any racial or ethnic group for most forms of cancer. And lung cancer is our number one killer. The good news is that if you stop smoking now, you can reduce your chances of being struck with the disease.
There is one test, however, that everyone who has ever smoked should have annually--the CT or CAT scan. Why? The earlier you detect lung cancer, the better your chances of survival. And the good news is that tests for people aged 55-80 with a heavy smoking habit are covered by insurance, believe it or not.
Now you know that Black folks don't really like going to the doctor, but it is better to get checked out than not. You can expect your doctor to ask you about your medical history and perform a full physical exam. While smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer, there are other factors put you at risk including second-hand smoke, exposure to radon and asbestos, air pollution, workplace carcinogens, and family history.
Your doctor will consider your risk factors and then recommend whether or not you should have an x-ray or a computed tomography (CT) scan. The CT scan is similar to an x-ray but it takes multiple pictures of your body from every angle while you lay down on a table. The higher your risk, the more likely you will be given the test.
If your results reveal something unusual, your doctor will order additional tests. You can learn more about those here. But (again) the more you know and the sooner you know, the better your chances of effective treatment.
If your doctor diagnoses you with cancer, be sure to ask as many questions as possible and even get a second option if needed. The most important thing you can do is be informed and then act. If we are proactive about our health, we can fight lung cancer and win!