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If you are a smoker or a former smoker, a simple screening could save your life. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and 85% of cases occur in cigarette smokers. Studies show that lung CT scans using low doses of radiation can effectively detect lung cancer in its earliest stages and most importantly, lower your risk of dying from lung cancer.
LDCT (low-dose computed tomography) works much like an x-ray exam to produce pictures of your chest and lungs. This high-quality lung screening detects lung abnormalities but with 90 percent less ionizing radiation than a conventional CT scan. If you have a high risk of lung cancer but no signs or symptoms, a LDCT screening could help you catch potentially cancerous spots at their earliest and most treatable stage.
You are considered high risk if you are:
Initial Consultation and CT Scan
If you would like to undergo a LDCT lung screening, the first step is an appointment with your primary care provider. This appointment will be a time to discuss your age, smoking history and other factors in order for your physician to determine if you are eligible for screening. If you are eligible, your primary care provider will schedule your low-dose lung CT scan.
Your medical provider will call you soon after your screening to explain your results and discuss any additional necessary medical care. If the CT scan were to detect any potentially cancerous nodules, another screening may be needed after a few months to monitor your lungs’ conditions. Regardless of your results, annual screenings are recommended, as yearly low-dose CT scans have been shown to decrease mortality in patients who had increased risk due to smoking.
Is Screening Covered By My Insurance?
Medicare now covers the cost of low-dose CT screening for high risk patients. Many private health insurers provide coverage as well. Your physician will give you more specific details about eligibility and costs during your consultation.
Remember… A LDCT screening can detect lung cancer in its earliest stages, but it cannot prevent or cure disease. The only way to stop cancer before it starts is to stop smoking. If you think you may be ready to quit, talk to your primary care provider for guidance and helpful tips.