By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Lung cancer kills 18 people every hour. On this World Lung Cancer Day,  there’s a new push to save lives with a simple screening for high risk patients.

It’s the first national PSA campaign, called “Saved By The Scan,” aimed at educating people about potentially lifesaving low-dose ct scans that can detect early stage lung cancer.

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“If we wait for symptoms to develop, it’s often too late in the course of the disease,” Dr. Patrick Ross of Main Line Health explained. “But the earlier we find the lung cancer, the more effective we are in giving that patient a long term good outcome.”

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Dr. Ross, the chair of surgery at Main Line Health, says the reason lung cancer is so deadly is because it’s usually found late. Once symptoms like a cough develop, the cancer is usually already spreading.

He says a low dose CT scan is the best way to find early stage lung cancer. And it’s recommended for long term smokers who are most at risk.

“What we need to do is recognize that this is an epidemic and by finding these cancers early, by identifying better ways to more effectively treat them, we’re gonna save lives,” Dr. Ross said.

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It’s already happening at Main Line Health, where the CT scans have found cancer in patients with no symptoms.

“There is no question of all of the innovations, this is one of the best,” Dr. Ross said. “We have better surgical techniques, better radiation, oncology techniques markedly improved chemotherapy but finding it early so you don’t need all the other things, that’s really the answer.”

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For patients who’ve smoked a long time, the scans are covered by insurance, the American Lung Association says.

Nine million people in the US are at high risk for lung cancer and more than 15,000 lives could be saved if only half of them were screened.

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For more information on a low dose CT scan for lung cancer, visit here.

Stephanie Stahl