Low Dose CT Lung Screenings:The Easiest Way to Catch Lung Cancer Early

This won’t hurt a bit!

Date: November 25, 2022
Categories: Health Focused, Cancer

Pulmonology and Critical Care

Did you know November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month? Augusta Health Pulmonology and Critical Care would like to remind you that a Low Dose CT (LDCT) lung screening is recommended for those who are at high risk of developing Lung Cancer.

Cigarette smoking is linked to about 90% of lung cancers, and those who have smoked a lot of cigarettes for a long period of time are at greater risk of developing lung cancer. The 5-year survival rate of lung cancer is less than 20%. But when detected early and the disease is limited to the lungs, that survival rate jumps to over 55%. However, only 16% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage, that’s why it’s crucial for longtime smokers to screen for lung cancer. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you may still be at risk. Be on the safe side. Screen early and improve your chances of survival!

Who should have an LDCT Lung Screening?
Low Dose CT (LDCT) lung screening is recommended for the following groups of people who are considered to be at high risk for lung cancer:

  1. No visible symptoms (Asymptomatic)
  2. Age 50 – 80 years
  3. History of “20 pack-year” or more of cigarette smoking
    1.  1 pack-year = the number of packs of cigarettes smoked/day x the number of years the person has smoked)
    1.  example: 2 packs/day x 10 years = 20 pack-year
  4. Current smoker or quit within the past 15 years.
  5. No co-morbidities that would prevent effective treatment for lung cancer.

Additional risk factors include a history of lung cancer or other smoking-related cancer, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, family history of lung cancer, significant exposure to known lung carcinogens (radon, silica, cadmium, asbestos, arsenic, beryllium, chromium, diesel fumes, nickel, coal smoke, and soot).

Why does it matter if I have symptoms?
Certain symptoms can be a sign that you have a condition in your lungs that should be evaluated and treated, if necessary, by your healthcare provider. These symptoms include fever, chest pain, a new or changing cough, shortness of breath that you have never felt before, coughing up blood, or unexplained weight loss. Having any of these symptoms can greatly affect the results of lung screening and may delay the treatment you might need.

What can I expect?
The exam is quick and painless. There is no preparation required and you can eat before and after the exam. There is no need to drink an oral contrast material and there are no needles or medications used for this exam. You do not need to get changed for this exam as long as the clothing on your chest does not contain any metal.

You simply lie on your back with your arms above your head. The table will move in and out of the CT scanner. You will need to hold your breath for the 10 seconds it takes to acquire the images of your lungs.

The report of your LDCT lung screening exam will be sent to your physician within 48 hrs. You will receive the results of your exam within 2 weeks. About 1 out of 4 Low Dose CT lung screening exams will find something in the lung that may require additional imaging or evaluation. Usually, these findings are lung nodules which are small collections of tissue in the lung. These nodules are very common, and the vast majority, more than 97% – are not cancer (benign). Most are either lymph nodes or small areas of scarring from past infections. Less commonly, lung nodules are cancer. If a small lung nodule is found to be cancer, the cancer can be cured more than 90% of the time. That is why we are screening you.

An LDCT lung screening exam must be ordered by your physician or healthcare provider. The exam may show findings that will require additional evaluation and your physician is best able to discuss that with you. Those who are in the high-risk groups for lung cancer should have an LDCT lung screening every year.

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you think you are at risk or call Augusta Health Pulmonology and Critical Care for more information at 540-245-7190.