KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Barbara and Jim Eschenheimer smoked cigarettes for half a century because it was the “cool thing to do” in the ’50s. Two years ago, they both were diagnosed with Stage 1 lung cancer.
“You wonder about it [lung cancer], but you don’t think it’ll ever happen to you,” Barbara said.
“And we didn’t know anyone who had it, until now,” Jim said.
At the suggestion of Dr. Jonathan Gendel, their primary care physician at Saint Luke’s Hospital, they both had free lung cancer screenings through Medicare.
“If we would’ve had to wait until we had symptoms, it would’ve been much further along,” Barbara said, “and we wouldn’t have the outcome that we had.”
The Eschenheimers, who live in Lee’s Summit, both are now cancer free.
Gendel said anyone with a 30-year, pack-of-cigarettes per day habit between 55 and 77 years old qualifies for a free lung cancer screening through Medicare. Private insurance covers the cost of the screening for those up to 79 years old.
The screenings use a low-dose CT scan and take less than one minute.
“Ten years ago, we didn’t have that capability,” Gendel said. “There was no effective screening tool for lung cancer. The advent of the CT scan and the Low Dose CT Scan we use allows us to pick it up early if individuals are screened early.”
Between 80% and 90% of lung cancer diagnoses are in smokers, Gendel said.