New Study Links Lung Screening Program to Kicking Smoking

Participants in a lung cancer screening program at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center are more likely to quit smoking and avoid relapse than smokers nationwide, according to a new study in The Journal of Thoracic Disease.  

The study followed almost 1,500 patients who were part of the lung cancer screening program – which aims to detect cancer early through low-dose CT scans when it is most treatable. The smoking cessation rate was 14.5 percent, more than twice the national average. The study also showed participants were more likely to have quit the longer they remained in the screening program, and that former smokers were less likely to relapse.

“Patients enrolled in our program have a long history of tobacco addiction,” said Andrea McKee, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Lahey, who has pioneered low-dose CT screening program and helped hospitals around the world adopt similar programs. “These results support the idea that screening longtime smokers at a higher risk of developing lung cancer—and following up with regular scans—provides a teachable moment and helps people finally quit smoking.”

Jane Erekson is one participant who has struggled to quit smoking for much of her life, and smoked as many as four packs a day for 25 years. She once quit for a full decade, but started up again during a stressful time in her life and smoked for 14 more years.

“I always tried to quit and it would last a few days, a week, a month, even years, but I would always go back,” said Erekson, who works as a clinical services manager in Lahey’s Radiology Department.

  New Study Links Lung Screening Program to Kicking Smoking 

Erekson signed up for the lung cancer screening program in December 2013, and even resisted quitting after an initial scan showed a nodule on her lung. The final straw came several months later, when a follow-up scan showed the nodule had grown. She signed up for Freedom from Smoking, a complimentary tobacco cessation program offered at Lahey run by certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist Peggy Russo.

“I wasn’t the easiest person to get into the program,” said Erekson, who admitted she was embarrassed to be seen there by people she knew. “But the fact that the scan showed the nodule had grown started to worry me and I knew it was time to quit for good.”

Two years later, she’s still smoke free and a routine follow-up scan recently showed the nodule on her lung had disappeared.

“I feel lucky that I work somewhere that offered these services to people,” said Erekson.  “And I’m happy to finally be done with smoking.” 

Interested in joining our low-dose CT lung screening program or tobacco treatment programs?

Lung Screening Program 
855.CT.CHEST (282.4378)  

Tobacco Treatment Programs 
Quitline: 781.756.7848 (QUIT).