What is a Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening CT?
Low Dose (low-radiation) Lung Cancer Screening CT (CAT scan of the chest) detects small, early-stage lung cancer before signs or symptoms of cancer appear.
What are the benefits of Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening CT?
The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) studied over 50,000 heavy smokers and showed a 20% decrease in lung cancer death in those who received a Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening CT compared with those who received a chest x-ray.
Is Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening CT recommended?
Yes. On December 31, 2013, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a statement that recommends annual Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening CT in persons age 55 through 80 years with a 30 pack-year (number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked) history of smoking who are currently smoking or have quit within the past 15 years. If fully implemented it is estimated that that could save 20,000 lives per year.
Is Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening Safe?
Yes. The amount of radiation a person receives during a Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening CT is about what an average Minnesotan gets in four to eight months from sources occurring in nature.
How long does the screening CT take?
The exam takes less than 10 seconds. No medications are given, and no needles are used. You can eat before and after the exam. You do not even need to get changed as long as the clothing on your chest does not contain metal.
What does the screening CT tell me?
A low-dose chest CT screening may detect lung abnormalities or nodules that would not otherwise be visible on a chest x-ray in about 25% of people who get scanned. Most of these nodules are not cancer. In fact, only 3 or 4 per 100 nodules are cancer. Most nodules are non-cancerous and require no treatment. However some nodules may require follow-up with further testing or consultation with a doctor specializing in lung disease such as a pulmonologist or thoracic surgeon.
What happens after my screening?
Your images will be interpreted by a boardcertified radiologist specializing in lung imaging. The findings and recommendations, if any, will be included in the report and communicated to you and your doctor.
Is the exam covered by insurance?
Provisions within ObamaCare mandate insurance company coverage of Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening CT. Coverage for Medicare patients is currently under review. We will help patients determine their coverage status. For those without coverage the cost of a screening is $99. Payment can be made via cash, check or credit card at the time of your appointment. In addition, you can use money from pre-tax medical savings plans to pay for the screening.
What’s the bottom line?
Screening high-risk patients for lung cancer will save lives.
Dr. Peter Wold
Board Certified Radiologist
St. Paul Radiology, PA