Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States, claiming more lives than breast, colorectal, prostate, and pancreatic cancers combined. Most patients diagnosed with lung cancer today already have advanced disease-40 percent are stage IV, 30 percent are stage III. And the five-year survival rate is only 16 percent.
But there’s good news—a low-dose CT lung screening can find lung cancer at an earlier stage, when it is easier to treat, and potentially curable, ultimately reducing the risk of death.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How Does it Work?
Symptoms of lung cancer often do not appear until late in the disease, when it has already spread and is more difficult to treat. Screening can help find cancer at an early stage, providing new hope for treatment options and outcomes of lung cancer. Finding cancer early through screening may lower the risk of death in high risk individuals, particularly current and former smokers.
The screening uses a low-dose CT scan to detect nodules in the lungs that might indicate cancer. The screening captures the entire lung area in tiny, 1-millimeter slices. With this up-close view, radiologists can find lung nodules as small as the size of a grain of rice. This is different from an X-ray, which detects masses the size of a dime or larger.
What happens during the scan?
A low-dose CT scan is a quick, painless, and non-invasive approach to screen for lung cancer. This type of CT scan uses no dyes, no injections, and requires nothing to swallow by mouth. Plus, it only takes only a few minutes of lying still on a table while the CT completes its scan, and does not require any preparation or disrobing before undergoing the scan.
A person lies very still on a table, and the table slowly passes through the center of a large CT machine while detailed images are taken of the lungs. During the scan, you may hear a whirling sound as the scan rotates in a spiral rotation around the area of the body being scanned.
Though the scanner will cover your entire body for a short period of time, both ends of the machine are completely open for you to see and hear outside of the machine.
What happens if the scan finds something?
Results from a low-dose CT scan normally take about a week. It should be noted that abnormalities are common and that most are noncancerous and harmless. After the CT scan is completed, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled with a member of the Lung Cancer Screening Program team to discuss the results of the scan in person. If the CT scan reveals something abnormal, you and a member of the Lung Cancer Screening Program team will discuss next steps in the process, including further diagnostic tests and/or repeat imaging.
The good news is that when lung cancer is found at an early stage, success rates for treating the disease are much higher.
Who can get screened?
You may be eligible for the CT lung cancer screening if you:
- Are age 55-80 and have commercial insurance or are age 55-77 and have Medicare
- Currently have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer
- Have a smoking history of 30 or more pack years (an average of one pack per day for 30 years)
- Are a current or former smoker (must have quit within last 15 years)
How much does it cost?
Medicare, Medicaid and most commercial insurance companies provide coverage for this screening for patients determined to be at high risk for lung cancer. Please check with your insurance provider for detailed cost information.
How do I get an appointment?
Low-dose CT lung cancer screening appointments can be scheduled through a referral from your primary care or family doctor. If you do not currently have a family doctor, find one now at one of our locations throughout western Virginia. Talk to your doctor to see if a CT lung cancer screening is right for you.
New River Valley
Carilion New River Valley Medical Center
Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital