Lung Cancer Screenings
Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both men and women and 85 percent of these deaths can be attributed to smoking. Delaware County has the third-highest lung cancer rates of any county in the state.
Crozer Health offers a Lung Screening Program using low-dose CT scans. The program follows the high risk inclusion criteria as established by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), based on results from the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial.
Results of this landmark trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that screenings with a low-dose CT scan can detect lung tumors early and reduce the lung cancer mortality rate by 20 percent for smokers.
The screening involves a painless non-invasive scan that takes about 20 seconds, once you have registered, changed clothing and are on the scanning table. There is no blood work or IV required. You will be asked to hold your breath during the scan in order to limit the motion of the lungs. Prior to coming for the scan, a member of the Crozer Health lung screening team (nurse navigator) will contact you to explain the screening process and conduct a brief interview about your smoking habits and other risk factors for lung cancer.
- Low-dose CT scan interpreted by a board-certified radiologist.
- Multidisciplinary specialists available for physicians and patients to assist in explanations or further treatment planning
- Nurse Navigator(s) to assist in scheduling and guidance through all necessary steps.
- Smoking cessation information as requested
Why Get Screened for Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer usually shows no obvious symptoms until it is in a late stage when it is difficult to treat. Early-stage lung cancer is more likely to be treatable and curable. A recent landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that screening high-risk patients using a low-dose CT scan can detect lung tumors early and can reduce the lung cancer mortality rate by 20 percent for smokers.
Who Should Get Screened?
- Healthy individuals 50-80 who are current or former smokers with at least a 20 pack year smoking history (a “pack year” is the number of packs smoked daily multiplied by the number of years smoking).
- Former smokers must have quit within the last 15 years.
- A physician’s order is needed to be scheduled for the screening. Patients who do not fall into the high-risk group, as determined by the evidence from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), will not be eligible for this program.
Examples of 30 pack years include: 1 pack per day for 30 years; ½ pack per day for 60 years, 2 packs per day for 15 years.
CT screening for lung cancer is safe and non-invasive. There are two main concerns associated with the screening you should be aware of. These are: the radiation exposure with a CT scan and the possibility that you may need to have additional testing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the downsides/risks of getting a screening CT scan?
CT screening for lung cancer is safe and non-invasive. There are two main concerns associated with CT lung screening. These are the radiation exposure with a CT scan and the possibility that you may need to have additional testing. In order to minimize the amount of radiation exposure to our patients, a special “low dose” of radiation is used by Crozer Health radiologists when performing lung cancer screening CT scans.
Additional testing is determined by our lung cancer screening team and your physician based upon nationally accepted standards for follow-up care.
The most likely plan includes closer monitoring with low-dose CT scan. A PET scan or, rarely, biopsy may be considered.
Why would I need additional tests?
It is possible that the screening test will detect other abnormalities in your lungs that are not cancer. Additional tests may be required to determine whether the abnormality is cancer or not. These tests may cause anxiety and on some occasions lead to more invasive procedures, such as biopsy, to determine whether the finding is a cancer.
What is the cost of a lung cancer screening CT?
Most health insurance companies and Medicare are now required to cover the cost of lung cancer screening as part of their preventive care benefits. However, for those that do not cover it, the current charge is $125. We recommend contacting your insurance company to confirm your coverage and the possible need for pre-authorization prior to coming for your scan.
What happens during the test?
Once you have registered, changed clothing and are on the scanning table, the screening involves a painless non-invasive scan that takes about 20 seconds. There is no blood work or IV required. You will be asked to hold your breath during the scan in order to limit the motion of the lungs.
When will I get the results?
Typically, the results will be available to your physician within 24 hours (the next business day) after your scan. You should contact your physician’s office if you have not received your results within a few days. He or she can best explain the results and recommended follow up
What do the results mean?
It’s common for low-dose CT scans to find changes in the lungs that are not always cancer. In fact, according to the Lung Cancer Alliance, at least 50% of people have a lung nodule by the time they are 50 years old. However, 95% of these nodules are not cancer. If you have a lung nodule, your doctor may want to follow it over time to see if it grows or changes.
A “negative” result means that there were no suspicious findings at this time on this CT scan. It does not mean that you absolutely do not have lung cancer. It does not mean that you will never get lung cancer. Your doctor will discuss when you should be tested again.
When should I come back?
Screening for lung cancer is an ongoing process where we monitor the condition of your lungs, comparing changes over time. The USPSTF recommends continuing with annual screening until the individual has not smoked for 15 years or develops a significant health problem limiting either life expectancy or ability or willingness to undergo curative lung surgery.
Request an Appointment
To request an appointment with a physician prescription, please call 1-866-5-CK-XRAY (1-866-525-9729) or request an appointment online.
If you need a referral to a primary care physician or pulmonologist, call 1-800-254-3258 (1-800-254-3258).