What is lung cancer screening?

Lung cancer screening is a diagnostic chest scan utilizing Low Dose Computed Tomography, a specialized low-radiation form of CT that can reveal exceptional detail of early changes and disease in the lungs. This non-invasive test provides a nearly 3-D view of the lungs and captures a series of images that can be viewed by your doctor and RAO radiologist on a computer screen, where even the smallest abnormalities can be discovered before they cause symptoms.

Signs of lung cancer, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and expectorating blood, often don’t occur until lung cancer has spread outside the lungs, where it can be difficult or impossible to treat. Lung cancer screening can catch lung cancer in its earliest stages, long before symptoms appear, when it has a high treatment success rate. Low Dose Computed Tomography is quick, painless and contains a reduced level of radiation for superior safety.

Who is a candidate for lung cancer screening?

Anyone age 50 or older who is currently a heavy smoker or once was and quit within the past 15 years may be a candidate for Low Dose Computed Tomography lung cancer screening. The following can help you determine if you are at an elevated risk for lung cancer:

1. You are age 55 or older and have a history of 30 or more “pack years.” Pack years are calculated by multiplying the number of years you have smoked by the number of packs smoked per day. For example: 2 packs a day x 15 years = 30 pack years. 

2. You are age 50 or older with a 20 pack-year history and at least one other risk factor, such as a personal or family history of lung disease. For example, 1 pack a day x 20 years + asthma or close relative with lung disease.

If either of these situations describes your history now or anytime within the past 15 years (even if you have quit smoking), the Board Certified Radiologists of RAO and the American College of Radiology recommend that you talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening.

Lung cancer is the #1 cause of cancer death in the US, so early detection is crucial to successful treatment and survival. Caught in time, lung cancer has a high cure rate, making low-dose computed tomography a true lifesaver.

Do I need my doctor’s referral?

Yes, this test is offered only with a doctor’s referral. It may be 100% covered by Medicare, so ask your doctor if he or she thinks it may be beneficial given your age and personal and/or family history. Currently, people ages 55-77 with a 30-year back history and physician referral are eligible to have their scans covered by Medicare.

Where is lung cancer screening offered?

RAO offers Low Dose Computed Tomography lung screening at Medical Imaging Center and TimberRidge Imaging Center. We offer advanced CT imaging technology for enhanced safety, accuracy and peace of mind.

What to Expect

During the brief exam, you will be asked to lie motionless on a table as the scanner passes painlessly over your chest region. A contrast agent may or may not be used, depending on your case. In just a few minutes the scan is complete and your doctor will contact you with your results.

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