Stateline professor looks to find early detection of lung cancer

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ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- Dr. Neelu Puri is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine's Biomedical Science Department in Rockford. Since 2015, she has been looking into lung cancer with a goal of finding a potential cure.

Puri's team has been promoting lung cancer screenings throughout the Stateline as part of the study. The study can go further now after receiving a $50,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Illinois.

Her team promotes getting lung cancer screenings, or LDCT screenings done sooner than later. Puri says, "Recently the CDC has that they will be LDCT screening people who have lung cancer. People who have smoked for 30 pack years, meaning you smoked 20 cigarettes a day for 30 years are eligible."

If you fall into that category and are between the ages of 55 and 80 years old, you can receive these screenings at any Rockford hospital. Puri hopes that with further research, thanks in part to the new grant, that one day soon these screenings will be able to be performed at hospitals and doctors offices across the country.

These screenings help detect lung cancer as early as possible. From June 2015 to October 2017, more than 1,100 screenings took place at Rockford hospitals. From these screenings, lung cancer was detected in 19 patients and 11 of those were early stage lung cancer cases, which may not have been detected without the screening.

The study says there is a 60-85% chance of survival when lung cancer is detected early while later detection at stage 3 or 4 lung cancer potentially has only a 5-10% chance of survival.

In addition to promoting lung cancer screenings to help detect cancer early, Puri's team is also studying bio-markers from current lung cancer patients to see how they compare to one another and hopefully get an earlier detection. This is done by taking lung cancer patients blood and comparing different protein levels to one another.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Illinois gets $1.1 billion in total state tobacco revenue while only spends $9.1 million on tobacco prevention. The CDC recommends spending at least $136.7 million each year.

Puri hopes people realizes those statistics and that lung cancer is extremely dangerous. She hopes that people will take advantage of the LDCT screenings as early as possible.