More people die of lung cancer each year in the United States than any other type of cancer, yet when it’s caught early, there are more treatment options and higher survival rates. In fact, annual screening with CT scans can detect lung cancers in their earliest stage, and up to 90 percent can be cured.
Based on screening guidelines established by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, patients who are considered high-risk for lung cancer may find benefit in having a low-dose CT screening to detect early lung cancer. The screening is not currently covered by insurance; eligible patients must be referred by a physician. Up to 40 percent of screening CT scans will show incidental findings, which may require additional evaluation and follow up.
Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) is a diagnostic test that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to create cross-sectional images (often called slices), horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of the bones, muscles, fat, blood vessels and organs. As a result, CT scans are very detailed and help physicians diagnose many conditions that may not be as easily diagnosed with other imaging methods like X-ray or ultrasound.
Patients who meet the guidelines developed by the National Lung Screening Trial and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network are eligible for a CT lung cancer screening, with a written order from a physician. This screening program involves having an annual chest CT scan for three years.
Eligible participants must meet the following criteria:
- individuals between 55 and 74
- current or former smoker with a history of at least 30 “pack years” of smoking (one “pack year” is equal to the number of packs smoked a day times the number of years of smoking)
Patients are not eligible for a screening if they have:
- pneumonia or an acute respiratory infection treated with antibiotics in the 12 weeks prior to the scheduled CT
- had a CT scan of the thorax within the past year
- Patients with symptomatic disease will require a clinical evaluation and are not eligible for the screening.