Detecting Lung Cancer

Understanding Lung Cancer

Chances are, you’ve heard the frightening statistics: Cigarette smoking accounts for nearly 90% of all lung cancer cases. In the United States alone, lung cancer leads to 32% of cancer deaths in men and 25% of cancer deaths in women. Perhaps you’ve already taken these numbers to heart and quit smoking, and that’s great! But did you know that up to 50% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among former smokers? And recent evidence suggests that individuals with substantial “second-hand” smoke exposure are also at increased risk for lung cancer. But you can turn it around. When lung cancer is found early, there’s an excellent long-term survival rate of 85-90%. However, those who do not catch the disease at an early stage face a dismal 15% chance of surviving just five years.

Identifying the Problem

Are you a smoker, a former smoker, or someone who has had repeated exposure to second-hand smoke? Do you have respiratory symptoms? Or, have you been exposed to cancer causing chemicals (such as asbestos, radon, arsenic, chromium, nickel, or mustard gases) on the job? If so, you should be screened early. You should be screened now. At the very least, a lung scan can put your mind at ease. Or it can save your life.

Taking the Right Steps

Studies show the effectiveness of treatment for lung disease is largely dependent on when it is discovered. Recent research suggests that low radiation dose computed tomography (CT) such as available with the EBT scanner is valuable in fast, convenient, very safe lung scanning and can diagnose tumors as small as 5 millimeters in size. Death from lung cancer is considered preventable in approximately 85% of clinical cases through a combination of avoidance of smoking and early detection. If you have been exposed to smoking, early detection is that much more important.

What the New Cholesterol Guidelines Mean For You

New guidelines released this month by the American Heart Association vastly expand the number of Americans recommended for statin therapy, a medication used to decrease the production of cholesterol. While a debate has begun regarding the validity of the study, there are several doctor-recommended practices for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease through decrease in cholesterol.

Cholesterol is normally found in your body tissues, but when the waxy substance becomes highly concentrated, your heart’s health may be at risk. The first step to lowering LDL, or bad, cholesterol is to assess the current level of cholesterol in your bloodstream. Doctors can administer a screening for adults age 20 and older that measures total cholesterol and triglycerides level. A reading below 200 milligrams of LDL cholesterol per deciliter of blood is typically considered healthy.

Modifying your lifestyle is the next step to lowering your cholesterol level. These simple changes in your diet may help you lose the five percent of body weight it takes to significantly lower cholesterol levels:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat. Generally, you should consumer less than seven percent of your daily calories from saturated fats, often found in red meat and dairy products. Choosing leaner cuts of meat or opting for low-fat dairy will reduce your intake of saturated fats.
  • Avoid trans fats. Usually found in fried foods or baked goods, trans fats cause a rapid increase in your cholesterol levels. Eliminate foods containing trans fats to promote heart health through lower cholesterol.
  • Load up on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids. Nutrients found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables work wonders for the heart. Omega-3 fatty acids also boost heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol levels.

Individuals with the following characteristics are considered at high risk for cardiovascular disease and should meet with their doctor to assess their cholesterol level and cardiovascular risk:

  • Previous heart attack or stroke.
  • Family history of cardiovascular disease.
  • Presence of diabetes or elevated lipoproteins.
  • History of smoking.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Low HDL cholesterol.
  • Men age 45 and older.
  • Women age 55 and older.

When you are concerned about your heart health, you may need a complete diagnostic screening to assess potential heart problems. Virtual Imaging can help in early detection of cardiovascular risk and heart disease by using a patient’s medical history, assessment of risk factors, and state-of-the-art EBT HeartScan. Taking a proactive approach to your heart health is the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Visit to schedule an appointment for your EBT HeartScan.

Snacking Your Way to a Healthy Heart

When you think about snacking, you probably start thinking about “junk food.” While chips and candy are certainly delicious, they have high caloric contents and are filled with loads of sugar and salt.

Fortunately snacking doesn’t have to be this way. Eating the right foods in between meals can help reduce hunger cravings, lower cholesterol, increase metabolism, and improve weight loss, leading to better heart health and lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Here’s a list of some great heart healthy snacks to get you started!

  1. Raisins are tasty and easy to eat on the go. They’re also great because they can help regulate blood pressure, therefore reducing risk of hypertension, a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke.
  2. There may be some truth to the age old saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples contain antioxidant flavonoid compounds that keep the bad cholesterol, LDL, from causing plaque build up in the arteries, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and heart attack. The fiber within apples also helps to lower cholesterol.
  3. Popcorn (the kind that isn’t heavily buttered and salted) can actually benefit heart health through polyphenols. Polyphenols are a form of antioxidants that inhibit bad cholesterol from clogging arteries, thereby reducing risk for heart disease.
  4. Avocados are low in saturated fat, and free of trans fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Because of this they fit the American Heart Association’s list of diet and lifestyle recommendations. These fruits are also rich in monounsaturated fat, which helps reduce bad LDL cholesterol and increase the amount of the good HDL cholesterol, which effectively reduces the chance of heart disease.
  5. Nuts are packed full of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which reduce the amounts of bad cholesterol in our blood. Certain nuts, like walnuts for example, contain alpha-linoleic acid that the body converts into an omega-3 fatty acid, a substance known to prevent coronary heart disease.
  6. In a previous blog, we discussed how dark chocolate helps reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. When eaten, this popular confectionary treat makes certain bacteria in the stomach release anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart.

Just like with any other food, these snacks are healthy in moderation. Too much of one food and not enough of another makes for an unhealthy and unbalanced diet, causing health complications other than cardiovascular disease. If you’re concerned that your current diet may have affected your heart’s health, contact Virtual Imaging at 770-730-0119 to schedule an appointment.

Is Your Belly Fat, or Do You Have a Fatty Liver?

Does your belt seem to be getting a bit tighter? What we see as a little weight gain, gas, or constipation, could actually point toward more serious health conditions. Excess abdominal fat has frequently been associated with liver disease, which tends to have few or no symptoms. The lack of symptoms makes liver disease difficult to diagnose. When symptoms do arise, they are often unpronounced or go ignored. By the time you realize something is wrong, the liver may already have suffered significant damage, and it may be too late.

The liver is one of the most important organs in your body because it:

  • Cleans your blood.
  • Produces bile, making digestion possible.
  • Stores the body’s energy as sugar.

Using imaging technology to look at the body can help identify some common liver problems:

  1. Benign tumors.
    Benign tumors are masses found in the liver that do not spread to other parts of the body. They usually do not pose a serious health risk and do not need to be treated. However, if benign liver tumors grow too large, they may interfere with other organs and cause pain and bleeding. If that happens, you may consider getting them surgically removed.
  2. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and
    Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis (NASH).
    Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common liver condition in America. Affecting 20% of American children and adults, the disease causes liver cells to swell with fat. Associated with poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, as NAFLD progresses, it develops into a more serious condition known as Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis (NASH). NASH is dangerous because it causes liver damage that it is nearly identical to that seen in heavy drinkers.Like hypertension, NASH is a “silent killer.” There are no drugs approved to treat the disease, and it is a leading cause of liver transplants around the country. Fortunately, if detected very early on, strict dedication to exercise and a modified diet can reverse this condition.
  3.  Cancer or malignant tumors.
    We are not sure what causes cancer, but the likelihood of liver cancer increases in the advanced stages of NASH. Liver cancer is among the top ten most common cancers worldwide. The average age of diagnosis is 63 and getting younger. Because liver cancer is asymptomatic and develops quickly, the survival rate is very low. Eighty percent of patients with liver cancer die within five years of diagnosis.

Take note of the following risk factors and symptoms of liver disease:

  • Alcohol use and abuse
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Elevated iron content in blood
  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of skin and eyes)
  • High triglyceride levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Low HDL (‘good’ cholesterol)
  • Insulin resistance

If you believe you may be at risk for liver disease or cancer, Virtual Imaging’s technology is the first step in diagnosing suspicious liver masses and a convenient alternative to unnecessary blood tests. The scan is painless and uses electron beams to create pictures of the inside of your body. Why wait any longer? Request an appointment at Virtual Imaging by calling us at (770) 730-0119.