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Cancer Institute study backs screening given to DOE workers

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The National Cancer Institute has released findings agreeing that low-dose CT scans can prevent 20 percent of deaths from lung cancer in high-risk individuals.
The landmark study, published late last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, backs the CT scanning for early lung detection that has been given to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 and K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant nuclear workers since 2000.
The scanning is part of a medical screening program funded by the Department of Energy and sponsored by the United Steelworkers and the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, in association with Queens College of the City University of New York.
“The results of the National Cancer Institute study show clear evidence that low-dose CT scanning can detect lung cancer early and dramatically reduce lung cancer deaths,” said Dr. Steven Markowitz, an occupational medicine physician and director of the Worker Health Protection Program.
“While national medical authorities begin their discussions on how to best apply these findings to high-risk populations, over 6,000 workers from Oak Ridge have already received this lifesaving test,” he added.
The Worker Health Protection Program offers free low-dose CT scans to current and former ORNL, Y-12 and K-25 workers at high risk for lung cancer.
The program, part of the largest occupational lung cancer screening program in the country, uses scans to detect lung cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most effective.
Though smoking causes the majority of lung cancers, workers who handle certain hazardous materials are also at risk. In Oak Ridge, many employees were exposed to known lung carcinogens such as asbestos, uranium, plutonium and beryllium.
To date, 38 lung cancers have been detected among more than 6,000 Oak Ridge nuclear workers who have received the low-dose CT scans. Twenty-five of those, or 66 percent, were discovered at an early stage.
Nationally, in the absence of lung cancer screening, only 10 to 15 percent of lung cancers are detected at an early stage. Survival rates of late-stage lung cancer are very low.
Oak Ridge nuclear workers with lung cancer may also be able to receive compensation from the federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.
The NCI released results from the National Lung Screening Trial, a randomized national trial of more than 53,000 current and former smokers.
Eligibility requirements for the Worker Health Protection Program Early Lung Cancer Detection program include age, years worked, exposure history and smoking history.
Additional no-cost medical screening is available to all current and former ORNL, X-10 and Y-12 employees who worked on-site more than 30 days.
 Call 1-866-228-7226 for more about participating in the WHPP medical screening and early lung cancer detection programs.