NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A significant expansion to the Department of Veterans Affairs is set to benefit more than five million veterans who may have been impacted by toxic exposure while in the service.

About 8,000 veterans are diagnosed and treated for lung cancer each year, and 900,000 are estimated to be at risk due to age, smoking and environmental exposures such as burn pits. Veterans who were exposed to toxic substances have a higher risk of lung cancer than the general population.

Vincent Mase, a Yale Medicine thoracic surgeon and the director of the lung cancer screening program at the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Trumbull, said that it is a great effort to get the changes passed into law, and now the work shifts to getting the word out so that eligible veterans can benefit.

“And it’s not just about that,” Mase said. “The goal of lung cancer screening is to save lives and detect cancer early. So, it’s not just about expanding benefits. It’s also to potentially save the lives of veterans who may have lung cancer and don’t know it.”

A free lung cancer screening will be held from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday at the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center, located at 5520 Park Ave. in Trumbull.