CT Scan Screening for Early Lung Cancer Detection

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Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality in this country, killing more than 161,000 people per year. The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) by National Cancer Institute (NCI) results show mortality benefit with low-dose CT, twenty percent fewer lung cancer deaths seen among those who were screened with low-dose spiral CT than with chest X-ray.

Using a CT Scan increases the detection of lung cancer at Stage 1 up to the rate of 85 percent. Lung cancer is often found when the tumor is relatively large, which results in treatment that may require more extensive surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy and less favorable outcomes when compared to detecting cancer earlier. By using low dose spiral computed tomography (Spiral CT), a special type of X-ray imaging more sensitive than routine chest X-rays, we anticipate finding more lung cancer cases at an earlier stage of growth and improving survival rates. Another benefit to low-dose radiation imaging is that the amount of radiation a person would receive is significantly reduced as compared to that of a standard-dose diagnostic CT.

Find out if you are eligible for the Early Lung Cancer Detection Program 

Take a Lung Cancer Risk Assessment

Early Detection is the Key

People who choose to undergo this program first undergo an initial baseline screening CT. No intravenous contrast is given. The scan is generally done in 20-30 seconds. If no significant abnormalities are identified, an annual repeat screening CT is recommended. Occasionally, abnormalities are identified which require further workups with standard-dose CT X-rays, biopsy or surgery.

Early Lung Cancer CT Scan Screening FAQs 

Any eligible person may self-refer for the study or be referred by his or her physician. Both the patient and physician will receive reports for the screening CT.

Who is eligible for the program?
The screening program is designed to evaluate people who have no signs or symptoms, but who are at risk for the development of lung cancer. People who are over 50 and have smoked 1 pack a day for 10 years, have extensive secondhand smoke exposure, or who have had asbestos or other environmental exposures are eligible for the program.

People who already have a diagnosis of cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer) or who have on-going medical symptoms are NOT eligible for the screening and should contact their physician regarding appropriate evaluation.

Will the screening CT find all cancers in the chest?
No. Although CT is quite sensitive for the detection of lung lesions, the screening CT cannot be expected to find all chest cancers. Small masses adjacent to lung vessels, chest wall, areas of scarring or within the tubular airways may be difficult to see. On occasion, multiple small tumors may be indistinguishable from post-inflammatory lung nodules.

Because this is a low-dose non-contrast screening CT designed specifically to look at the lung tissue, other areas of the chest such as the heart, vessels, lymph nodes, chest wall are not adequately evaluated. A negative screening CT does not replace regular health check-ups. Furthermore, any person enrolled in the program who develops medical symptoms should immediately contact his or her physician regarding appropriate work-up.

Does an abnormal screening CT mean I have cancer?
No. There are many causes for an abnormal lung CT. Scars or multiple nodules from prior inflammatory disease are often a cause for an abnormal CT. Although generally distinguishable from cancer, further diagnostic evaluation (as listed above), interval follow-up low–dose screening or standard-dose diagnostic CT may be necessary to confirm stability and exclude malignancy.

If I am not eligible based on the criterion above, can I still have the study?
The screening study is designed to find possible lung cancers in patients with high risk factors. People who do not smoke, have extensive secondhand smoke exposure or asbestos should speak to their physician regarding the need for such a screening CT. Remember, even though the CT is done using low-dose radiation, radiation exposure is cumulative over a lifetime and unnecessary radiation should be avoided.

Why is the screening CT available on a cash payment basis only?
At this time, Medicare and to our knowledge insurance companies do not reimburse for the screening study. You may elect to confirm this fact with your insurance company prior to scheduling this screening CT exam. Medicare and insurance companies may reimburse for any subsequent diagnostic studies ordered by your physician.

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