(Washington, D.C.)--"Any time a program can be initiated that can save millions of dollars, and far more importantly, save precious lives, it deserves serious consideration and positive action," said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). "And that is precisely what the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs has done by agreeing to move forward on CT screening for veterans at high risk for lung cancer."
Each year, some 8,000 veterans enter the VA healthcare system with advanced stage lung cancer. After five years, only about 15 percent of them survive. Said Rowan, "If the cancer cells can be detected when they are small and localized and then removed, thousands of lives can be saved." Rowan noted that in 2010 the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health terminated one of the largest trials in its history which proved that screening individuals at high risk for lung cancer with CT scans could dramatically reduce deaths from lung cancer.
Vietnam veterans--indeed all who have seen war up close and personal--are known to be at higher risk for lung cancer than their civilian counterparts because of exposure to a variety of toxic chemicals and carcinogenic substances during their time in the military as well as higher rates of smoking.
The Lung Cancer Alliance has long advocated for the institution of CT scanning for lung cancer in its earliest stages at VA medical facilities, and VVA has taken up the charge. "Too many of our veterans are succumbing to this awful disease," Rowan said, "and if this CT scanning can benefit even a few thousand of them, it will be more than worth it." Rowan praised VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki for "looking at the numbers and making the right decisions to save lives."
Admiral T. Joseph Lopez (USN, Ret), a Vietnam veteran who is Chairman of the Board of the Lung Cancer Alliance, and Laurie Fenton Ambrose, its President and CEO, praised VVA for its consistent and strong support during the years of effort to bring about this breakthrough.
"VVA was the lead veterans service organization on this from day one," said Fenton Ambrose. "We are grateful to VVA for all their help and look forward to continuing to work with them to make sure that CT screening, especially for Vietnam veterans, is implemented quickly. Lives are literally at stake."