Lung cancer is an aggressive and diverse disease. Until now, screening efforts to detect early lung cancer, such as chest x-rays and sputum cytology, have shown no reduction in mortality. With the advent of the CT scan, however, we now have the ability to reduce the mortality rate from lung cancer by 20%.
Current guidelines from the American College of Chest Physicians recommend annual low dose CT scans for patients aged 55-74 who are at risk for lung cancer. The ideal candidate is a current or former smoker in this age group who averages a “30 pack year”. This means that you have smoked at least one pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years or a similar equivalent.
Low dose lung cancer screenings allow for the early detection of cancer, minimizing the possibility of mortality in patients who are at risk of developing the disease. Because the lung cancer screening is more sensitive at evaluating your lungs, however, 20-30% of the time we discover abnormalities that are not malignant or harmful; which can lead to more tests or surgery. The results of your CT scan will be made available to you and your primary care doctor who can help you decide if further testing is needed. Our experienced team of pulmonologists at the Diagnostic Clinic will also be involved in your care if you have a suspicious screening exam.
Medicare and many insurance companies now cover screening CT scans. If follow-up CT scans are needed for suspicious findings, these will most likely be covered by your insurance plan or Medicare.
To schedule an appointment for a lung cancer screening, please give us a call at 770-297-4985.