A Simple Scan Can Detect Lung Cancer Before Symptoms Appear
By Emilio Mazza, MD, PhD, Pulmonologist – Virtua Pulmonology
The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke. However, smokers who are at high risk for lung cancer may be able to improve their chances of living a long and healthy life by getting a special computed tomography (CT) scan.
New low-dose CT scans allow health care providers to accurately assess the health of your lungs with two to four times less radiation exposure than conventional CT chest imaging.
The American Lung Association and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend low-dose chest CT scans based on a study that found this painless imaging test reduced lung cancer deaths among smokers by 15 to 20%.
In its early stages, lung cancer does not present with any telltale symptoms. So many people go undiagnosed until it has spread to other parts of the body. Earlier detection through low-dose CT scans provide an opportunity for more effective treatment.
Are You a Candidate?
According to National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines, annual lung cancer screening is recommended for people:
- Ages 55 to 77 who are current or former smokers with a 30 pack-year history. A pack year is the number of packs of cigarettes smoked daily multiplied by the number of years smoking. For example, one pack a day for 30 years equals two packs daily for 15 years. Former smokers must have quit within the last 15 years.
- Ages 50 and older with a 20 pack-year history and one additional risk factor. Additional risk factors include certain occupational exposures, cancer history, and a history of pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis. Your health care provider will help you determine your risk factors.
The U.S. Preventive Task Force recently proposed changing the screening guidelines to include a larger number of people. The new guidelines have not yet been approved.
Schedule Your Test
If you have Medicare or commercial insurance, this screening may be covered. Call your carrier to check your plan. Virtua offers reduced rates for those without coverage. The test requires an order from your primary care physician or a lung specialist.
If you are, or were, a heavy smoker, don’t wait until coughing or wheezing sends you go to the doctor. An easy CT scan can potentially detect cancer early before symptoms appear so we can start a treatment plan.
Get started by calling 856-247-7393. One of our lung nurse navigators will answer your questions, assist you with a referral to a primary care physician, and help you schedule your screening.
Need help kicking the tobacco habit? Individual smoking cessation counseling is available at Virtua Surgical Group in Marlton, NJ on Wednesdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To make an appointment, call 856-355-7176.
Updated November 12, 2020