Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. No matter how long you’ve been a smoker, kicking the habit can provide significant benefits to your health and well-being. If you’re thinking about quitting smoking, there are many reasons to consider. The Centers for Disease Control gives examples:
- Lower chances of having cancer, heart attacks, heart disease, stroke, cataracts, and other diseases
- Less likely to catch colds or flu, and better recovery
- You can breathe easier and cough less
- Decrease in blood pressure
Ready to Quit?
Make a list of the important reasons why you want to become smoke free, and refer back to it to remind yourself why. Here are seven health benefits you’ll enjoy when you quit smoking:
Watch: What to Expect at a Lung Cancer Screening
The goal of lung cancer screening is early detection so that surgery is still an option.
“Lung cancer screening is an important preventative health benefit, just like mammograms for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colon cancer. People don’t think twice about doing those things,” says nurse practitioner Aimee Strong, DNP, AGACNP-BC.
Get answers to common lung cancer screening questions.
She continues, “I think a lot of patients are hesitant to come in because they’re afraid we’re going to harp on them about how bad smoking is, and that’s just not the case. We meet patients where they are and really talk about the things that are important to them based on what I learn about them during the office visit.”
Screening Eligibility Requirements
You’re eligible for a lung cancer screening if:
- You have no cancer symptoms
- You’re the ages of 55-77
- You smoked at least a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years
- You currently smoke tobacco products or have quit in the last 15 years
If you meet these requirements, Medicare and most private insurance companies cover the cost of lung cancer screening.
We’ve set up a program to screen high-risk smokers to try to detect lung cancer early. Almost 80 percent of lung cancers are detected where they’ve already spread to other parts of the body, and at that point surgery is not an option. So we really want to catch the cancers when surgery is still an option.
Patients have to be between the ages of 55 and 77. They have to either still smoke, or have quit smoking within the last 15 years. And then they have to have smoked a good amount over their lifetime, which most patients have. The other important thing is patients have to not have any worrisome signs of lung cancer. If you do an annual low-dose non-contrast chest CT, you’ll find nodules, or small cancers, early where they can be treated for a cure.
The screening is fairly quick. It’s a non-con chest CT so you don’t have to get an IV. You have to lay down. It’s the small donut, not the long tube one. It takes about 10 seconds to go through the CT scan, and you’ll get a report the same day.
Lung cancer screening is an important preventative health benefit just like mammograms for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colon cancer. So many times people don’t think twice about doing those things. I think a lot of patients are hesitant to come in because they’re afraid we’re going to harp on them about how bad smoking is, and that’s just not the case. We meet patients where they are and really talk about the things that are important to them based on what I learn about them during the office visit.
Another interesting fact about lung cancer screening that not a lot of patients know is that it’s covered by insurance. For Medicare recipients, it’s covered at 100 percent with no out-of-pocket cost, including the office visit with me. Virginia Medicaid also covers lung cancer screening, and almost every insurance company offers lung cancer screening as a preventative health benefit. The best thing to do is to talk to your doctor first. We want to make sure that when people enroll in the program that they come back every year and are seen year after year. It’s not a type of program that you just do once and we don’t follow it up. We want a longer relationship with the patients.
Infographic Text: Need A Reason To Quit Smoking?
Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and quitting can lower your risk of many diseases and can add years to your life.
- You can stop the damage smoking does to your eyes and preserve your vision, especially at night.
- Kicking the habit can help protect skin from premature aging and wrinkles. This means you’ll look younger.
- Your blood pressure and heart rate will return to near normal within 2 hours. Your risk for coronary artery disease and heart attack starts to decline within 1 day. Within 1 year, your risk for heart disease falls by half and within 15 years, your risk is the same as a non-smoker.
- Immune System
- Smoking damages your airways, making you more prone to colds, coughs and respiratory infections. Once you quit smoking, your immune system will get stronger and you’ll be less likely to get sick. Since blood flow will improve, wounds will heal faster and better.
- Your sense of taste and smell improves within 48 hours. You’ll also smile brighter since the tar and nicotine from cigarettes will no longer stain your teeth and you won’t have smoker’s breath.
- You’ll be breathing more easily within 2 – 3 weeks as lung capacity increases. Within a few months, your coughing and shortness of breath will improve dramatically. Lung cancer risk drops to half that of a non-smoker by 10 years and almost equals a non-smoker within 15 years.
- Quitting can help reduce belly fat and lower your risk of diabetes. If you already have diabetes, if can make it easier to keep blood sugar under control.
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