The worldwide pandemic has forced many people to delay their routine medical care for many reasons.  We’re starting to see the effects of skipping mammograms with delayed diagnosis of more advanced breast cancers in our imaging centers.  It is time to recommit ourselves to getting back to normal and complete our necessary medical procedures.  One study, that more people are learning about, might be added to your medical care if you qualify medically.  It is a Low Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) of the chest for the early diagnosis of lung cancer.

Like any disease, prevention is the best cure.  85% of lung cancers are directly related to smoking.  The risk continues even once the patient stops smoking.  Despite the risk, current estimates are that 20% of American adults still smoke.  We continue to lose too many people to lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women.  It is the leading cause (27%) of cancer-related deaths.  Although a common disease, it typically has presented so late that treatments and options are limited.  Medicine has been in search of a screening test to diagnose lung cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage.  That test has arrived.  Studies have shown that LDCT DECREASES lung cancer deaths by 20%.  One European study showed a 40% decrease.

A LDCT is a painless, easy test that allows for the early detection of lung cancer.  There is no IV or contrast.  The actual scan takes 5-10 seconds. It is CT scan that uses less radiation, about the same about as living on earth for 4-6 months.  The test must be ordered by your doctor/provider, after discussing stopping smoking with you.  The cost of this screening test is minimal, AND completely covered by Medicare and your insurance.  Your scan will be read by a Board Certified Radiologist and results communicated to you and your doctor/provider.

Who should get it? In 2021 the US Preventative Task Force updated their recommendations for scanning.  If you are between ages 50 to 80, have smoked 20 pack years (# of packs x years smoking), and have smoked within 15 years, you are eligible.  For example, if you are 53, stopped smoking 5 years ago, after smoking 1.5 packs for 20 years (30 pack years), you are eligible.

In addition to lung cancer, LDCT may also detect other diseases such as atherosclerotic disease or other lung diseases.  People who smoke are at higher risk for coronary artery disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and COPD.

Screening are quick and painless and can save your life. Don’t delay your care!