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Why consider a Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening?

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the US and worldwide. About 85% of lung cancer occurs in current or former cigarette smokers. Lung cancer screening examinations are tests performed to find disease before symptoms begin, when disease processes are at an early and most treatable stage. A Low Dose CT Scan of the chest is the screening tool used to evaluate individuals who have a high risk of developing lung cancer but no signs or symptoms of the disease. The amount of radiation used for this screening examination is comparable to that of a mammogram. In a national trial of 55,000 smokers, this annual screening exam has shown to save lives.

Penn State Health St. Joseph is an American College of Radiology
designated lung cancer screening center.

Who should consider a Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening?

Candidate for screening include the following parameters:

  • Age 55-77
  • A 30 pack-year history of smoking (1 pack per day x 30 years or 2 pack per day x 15 years, etc.)
  • Current smoker or a former smoker who has quit in the last 15 years.

How do I schedule a Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening?

You should discuss Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening with your doctor. Your doctor will determine if you are a candidate for screening. You or your doctor can then call Central Scheduling at 610-378-2100 to schedule your appointment.

What are some of the benefits of Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening?

  • LDCT scans of the chest produce images of sufficient image quality to detect many lung diseases and abnormalities using up to 90 percent less ionizing radiation than a conventional chest CT scan.
  • No radiation remains in a patient’s body after a CT examination.
  • X-rays used in LDCT of the chest scans have no immediate side effects.
  • CT scans are able to detect even very small nodules in the lung, LDCT of the chest is especially effective for diagnosing lung cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage.
  • Lung cancer found by screening with LDCT is often at an earlier stage of disease.
  • Lung cancer screening with LDCT has been proven to reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer in patients at high risk.
  • CT is fast, which is important for patients who have trouble holding their breath.
  • CT scanning is painless and noninvasive.
  • When cancer is found with screening, patients can more often undergo minimally invasive surgery and have less lung tissue removed.

What are the risks of Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening?

  • False positive results occur when a test appears to be abnormal but no lung cancer is found. Abnormal findings may require additional testing to determine whether or not cancer is present. These tests, such as additional CT exams or more invasive tests in which a piece of lung tissue is removed (called a biopsy), have risks and may cause a patient anxiety.
  • Test results that appear to be normal even when lung cancer is present are called false-negative results. A person who receives a false-negative test result may delay seeking medical care. Not all of the cancers detected by LDCT will be found in the early stage of the disease. Screening that detects lung cancer may not improve your health or help you live longer if the disease has already spread beyond the lungs to other places in the body.
  • LDCT lung screening and all other screening exams can lead to the detection and treatment of cancer which may never have harmed you. This can result in unnecessary treatment, complications, and cost. There is a theoretical small risk of cancer from exposure to low dose radiation.

How do I prepare for the procedure?

There is no preparation for this Low Dose CT Lung Cancer screening exam and you may eat and drink without restrictions. Once you arrive for your LDCT Lung Cancer screen, the technologist will ask you to lie down on the CT table. Once you are comfortably positioned, the table will move into the middle of a large, donut-shaped scanner. You will be asked to hold very still and, at times, asked to hold your breath. The x-ray tube rotates around your body, making images from many different angles. The machine does not touch you and you do not feel the x-rays. The breath hold time for this exam is about 12 seconds.

Will my insurance cover this?

The cost of LDCT screening is covered by most, if not all, insurances and Medicare.

What happens if something is detected on my screening exam?

Lung cancer typically occurs in the form of a lung nodule, a relatively round lesion or area of abnormal tissue within the lung. The vast majority (greater than 95%) of these nodules do not represent cancer but instead represent areas of scarring in the lung from prior infection or small lymph nodes. If your LDCT scan detects a nodule that is suspicious, St. Joe’s offers a Multidisciplinary Lung Clinic. This team of physician experts – radiologists, pathologists, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists – come together on a weekly basis to develop the best treatment plan for you. Our Lung Nurse Navigator will serve as your point of contact to guide you and your family through the entire process, as well as communicate with the members of your personalized care providers on your behalf.

For more information, contact our Lung Screening Navigator at 610-378-2930.