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Keeping the community healthy and disease-free is our goal

I’m happy to write my second New Richmond News guest column and share information on another health care topic.

In last month’s column, I recapped my five-year tenure as president and CEO of Westfields Hospital & Clinic, and noted some accomplishments that we — the community and hospital — achieved by working together. I also shared in that article how physician shortages are affecting rural communities such as ours, and how HealthPartners and Westfields are helping to address the issue.

This time around, I want to highlight the importance of health screenings and exams.

Most people would prefer not to see a doctor or other health care provider if they’re not sick. The reality is, however, that getting regular health exams may prevent problems or detect issues early. This can improve chances for treatment and cure, and is more cost-effective for patients.

I can’t stress enough the importance of taking your health seriously. Last year, I made a commitment to cut back on fast foods and to eat more meals at home; I also began bike riding. I encourage you to make every effort to eat right, stay active, avoid smoking and practice other healthy behaviors; it really can make a difference in your health.

As I mentioned in my last column, the staff at Westfields Hospital & Clinic wants our community members to be healthy and for our focus to be on preventive care.

In an effort to prevent, identify and treat conditions early — before they become more serious — we offer a variety of health screenings including well-child exams; pap smears; blood pressure and cholesterol checks; colorectal cancer screenings; depression screenings; tests for diabetes and osteoporosis, and prostate cancer exams. We also screen patients for lung cancer, the second most common type of cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Steve Massey, president and CEO, Westfields Hospital & ClinicThis year, the ACS, estimates that nearly 225,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer and more than 150,000 will die from the disease. Those statistics are startling — and disturbing to me — and the Westfields medical team is committed to doing our part through education and early screenings to decrease these numbers.

We also support and encourage smokers to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Great

American Smokeout event. Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in this event and use this date to quit, make a plan to quit, or to encourage someone to quit smoking. This is an important step toward a healthier life and reducing the risk of cancer.

In mid-2017, HealthPartners is expected to implement a Lung Cancer Screening Program, which will provide patients who meet certain coverage criteria, the opportunity to have an annual low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan to screen for lung cancer.

Developing a lung cancer screening program at HealthPartners started last year after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved coverage for LDCT scans for lung cancer screenings.

CMS determined that screening for lung cancer with a LDCT scan is reasonable and necessary for prevention or early detection of illness. In fact, in a National Institute of Health clinical trial with 53,000 men and women aged 55 to 74 who were current or former heavy smokers, participants received a LDCT or a standard chest X-ray once per year for three consecutive years. The trial demonstrated 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths for participants screened with LDCT.

In addition to meeting certain age requirements (55-77) patients who qualify for the LDCT must have no symptoms of lung cancer; have a certain history of cigarette smoking; be a current smoker; or have quit smoking within the last 15 years.

Participants must also a have a written order for LDCT from a qualified health professional following a lung cancer screening counseling visit.

Non-Medicare patients should verify coverage for this screening with their insurance company.

Westfields is excited to participate in this program and other initiatives that seek to keep our community healthier and disease-free. Remember, it’s never too late to start your journey to better health, and Westfields is committed to helping you do so.

Steve Massey is president and CEO, Westfields Hospital & Clinic