Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening CT

What do Claude Monet, Walt Disney, and Joe DiMaggio have in common? Each of these iconic figures succumbed to lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer related death in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that greater than 158,000 Americans will die from lung cancer in 2015. Now, many medical societies are endorsing screening at risk patients with low dose CT scans (LDCT), citing the results of a landmark randomized clinical trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. This study showed that a screening program utilizing LDCT led to a 20% decrease in the risk of dying from lung cancer. With a radiation dose equivalent to a few chest x-rays, LDCT allows radiologists, the physicians supervising and interpreting these exams, to diagnose lung cancer early at a more curable stage. When discovered earlier, the cancer can often be removed before it has spread to other parts of the body.

As you may have seen in the news recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has elected to initiate a LDCT lung cancer screening program for its beneficiaries, provided that certain criteria are met. Under the proposed guidelines, you must be a symptom-free 55-77 year old with a 30 pack-year smoking history to be eligible for the program. Additionally, you must be either a current smoker or have stopped smoking within the past 15 years. While CMS is the only insurer that has committed to covering LDCT lung cancer screening for its beneficiaries, other insurance companies are expected to adopt similar policies. Hospitals and imaging facilities must also adhere to strict guidelines to offer a LDCT screening program to their patients. At Magnolia Regional Health Center, our radiology and medical imaging personnel are streamlining imaging and data transmission protocols so that we are prepared to offer this service once details regarding its implementation have been finalized.

Many in the medical community, this doctor included, hope that LDCT lung cancer screening will have an impact similar to that of mammography on breast cancer. Discuss your eligibility for this program with your doctor, and remember that it’s never too late to quit smoking.

Brandon Skelton, MD

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