Lung cancer is difficult to treat because it doesn’t usually cause symptoms until cancer has spread. That’s why screening – looking for lung cancer in people who do not have any symptoms – is helpful. Screening helps doctors find cancer earlier, which then makes it easier to treat.
The CDC recently expanded its guidelines and now recommends annual CT scans to screen for lung cancer in more populations – including more African-Americans and women. This will nearly double the number of people in the US who are advised to have annual lung cancer screenings. It is best to ask your healthcare provider regarding whether or not you should get a lung cancer screening.
What is a lung scan?
The recommended lung cancer screening test is a low-dose CT scan (also known as CAT scan or LDCT) of the lung. The lung CT scan is repeated once per year and takes about five minutes to complete. It involves minimal radiation exposure and doesn’t require an IV or blood drawn. During an LDCT scan, you lie on a table and an X-ray machine uses a low dose (amount) of radiation to make detailed images of your lungs.
Who should get screened?
Lung cancer is the leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths, and the goal of the expanded screening is to find it early enough to cure it in more people at high risk because of smoking. In those individuals, annual CT scans can reduce the risk of death from cancer by 20 to 25 percent, large studies have found.
If you are:
- between ages 55 and 75,
- smoked around one pack per day for thirty years or two packs per day for fifteen years
- a current smoker, or former smoker who quit in the past 15 years
…then you’re probably eligible for screening.
Researchers have also found that women and Black Americans also tend to develop lung cancer earlier and from less tobacco exposure than do white men.
These guidelines have been endorsed by the American Cancer Society, United States Preventive Services Task Force, American College of Chest Physicians, and more.
Lung cancer screenings, like other cancer screenings such as mammograms (breast cancer), colonoscopies (colon cancer/prostate cancer), and Pap tests (cervical cancer), should be done annually if your doctor thinks you are in a high-risk group.
Although The Affordable Care Act requires that insurers cover any screening broadly recommended by the task force, with no out-of-pocket costs, researchers have found that half the population eligible for lung-cancer screening had either no insurance or Medicaid. Medmo makes screening available and affordable to those without insurance or who wish to not use their insurance.
Are there any risks?
Lung cancer CT scan risks are relatively low but are important to note—
- A lung cancer screening test can suggest that a person has lung cancer when no cancer is present. This is called a false-positive result. False-positive results can lead to follow-up tests and surgeries that are not needed and may have more risks.
- A lung cancer screening test can find cases of cancer that may never have caused a problem for the patient. This is called overdiagnosis. Overdiagnosis can lead to treatment that is not needed.
- Radiation from repeated LDCT tests can cause cancer in otherwise healthy people.
If you are thinking about getting screened, talk to your doctor. If lung cancer screening is right for you, visit us at Medmo.com to schedule a scan.
To book a scan, visit us at Medmo.com. Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.