ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The American Cancer Society estimates more than 150,000 people die each year from lung cancer.
"It was very, very scary for us. I think it's a word nobody ever wants to hear. "We feel very blessed this program was here. We knew about it and we took advantage of it," says Carolyn Herwig, lung cancer survivor.
Carolyn Herwig smoked cigarettes for 30 years, but hasn't touched tobacco for the last decade, but it was too late. Herwig found out she had Stage One lung cancer last December.
"When it comes to lung and if you get it early enough, it can be taken out."
Swedish American Health System now offers Low Dose CT Scans that detect early stages of the cancer.
The National Cancer Institute says those screenings are saving lives. It reports a 20% drop in lung cancer deaths. The screenings catching cancer at its earliest stages, before tumors show up on x-rays. Doctors say it's an important tool considering early detection saves lives.
"Right now only 15% of lung cancers are cured. If we can go to 30%, 40% or 50% by diagnosing earlier than we need to do that. We don't want patients not go get it because they can't afford it," says John Myers, Chairman of Surgery at Swedish American.
For many, the cost isn't an issue. Each scan is just $150. Doctors say that's a steal considering most other scans can run in the thousands.
Those at greater risk for Lung Cancer includes:
-Individuals between 55 and 74 years of age
-Current or former smokers
-People with no prior history of cancer within the last 5 years
-Anyone exposed to asbestos