Smokers should quit smoking, high-risk patients should get screening, Piedmont pulmonologist says

Smokers should quit smoking, high-risk patients should get screening, Piedmont pulmonologist says

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women, and 90 percent of all lung cancer cases stem from smoking tobacco. Israel Gaitan, M.D., a pulmonologist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital, urges all smokers to quit smoking and vaping and believes that The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, which takes place Thursday, Nov. 19, is a great place to begin the journey of being smoke free.

The Great American Smokeout takes place on the third Thursday of every November. This year, on Thursday, November 19, Dr. Gaitan hopes that local residents will join millions of Americans and quit smoking or vaping. Quitting smoking, even for one day, is important, but people who would like to quit smoking long-term often need the support of family and friends, as well as support groups and, sometimes, prescriptions. 

Quitting smoking doesn’t just benefit you, but also everyone around you. Smoke exposure causes many serious health problems – such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer – in nonsmoking adults. In children, secondhand smoke can cause sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections and ear infections, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks.

If you have a long history of smoking, you also may qualify for the lung screening program at Piedmont Fayette. The screening is for patients who meet certain criteria and are deemed “high risk” for lung cancer, which makes them eligible to participate. The program uses a low-dose CT (computed tomography) scan of the chest to detect the disease.

One of those criteria is “pack years,” which are defined as the number of packs per day a person has smoked multiplied by the number of years that person has smoked.

“Those who are at high risk include people ages 55 to 77 who have at least a 30-pack-year history of smoking, who are current smokers or who quit within the past 15 years,” said Dr. Gaitan. “It’s important to focus on high-risk patients because lung cancer tends to be non-symptomatic in its early stages and survival improves when detected early.”  

Dr. Gaitan encourages those who meet the criteria for the lung screening to discuss a screening LDCT with their physicians. 

To learn more about the lung cancer screening, visit