What Everyone Should Know About Lung Cancer Screening
Finding lung cancer early through screening can be the key to a successful outcome.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with more people dying from it than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
While this fact may be concerning, there is good news: the number of new lung cancer cases is declining. This can be attributed to lower rates of smoking and an increase in lung cancer screenings, which allow clinicians to detect lung cancer earlier (when it is most treatable).
“Routine cancer screenings are used for early detection of cancers that can be asymptomatic until their later stages. The screening tools we have available may help detect an early-stage cancer, which can be treated and possibly cured,” says family medicine physician Natasha Carlson, MD, with LVPG Family Medicine–Hecktown Oaks. “Patients at high risk for developing lung cancer can greatly benefit from screening, as early identification of lung cancer allows for prompt intervention. This in turn can lead to remission, cure or increased survival.”
Current screening guidelines
Lung cancer screening is done with low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans.
During the test, you lie on a table while an X-ray machine uses low doses of radiation to create detailed images of your lungs. The scan only takes a couple minutes and is completely pain-free.
At this time, only certain individuals can be screened. To be eligible, you must meet all the following criteria:
· Be between the ages of 50 and 80
· Have a 20 pack-year smoking history (determined by multiplying the number of cigarette packs smoked per day by the number of years smoked)
· Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years
How to get screened
These lung cancer screening guidelines were recently updated by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, allowing younger individuals with less pack-years to get screened. But, while these updates are widely accepted, Medicare and some other insurance payers have until January 2023 to cover them.
If you would like to schedule a lung cancer screening, it is best to first discuss your eligibility with your family medicine or primary care physician.
From there, you should speak to your insurance provider to make sure you are covered for the screening. If your insurance does not yet recognize the lower age and pack-year eligibility, you may need to hold off on scheduling your screening until the new year.
CTA Box: Lung Cancer Screening at LVHN
Lehigh Valley Health Network is recognized by the American College of Radiology® as an accredited Lung Cancer Screening Center. We offer individuals the latest screening technologies and techniques as well as a multidisciplinary team of lung cancer specialists if additional care is needed.