The Low-Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening May Save Your Life - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on November 02, 2016

The Low-Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening May Save Your Life

A low-dose computer tomography examination (called a low-dose CT scan or LDCT) is the test used to screen for lung cancer.

A low-dose CT scan is a test used to
screen for lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The unfortunate reality is that roughly 90 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer will die from the disease, typically because their cancer has progressed to an advanced stage by the time it’s discovered. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Low Radiation Dose CT lung cancer screening has the potential to change that outcome for smokers, who are at higher risk for developing lung cancer.

Why It’s Important to Catch Lung Cancer Early

By the time most lung cancers are detected, it may be too late. Three out of four people with lung cancer have an incurable, advanced form of the disease that may already have spread to other parts of their body. This is called stage IV cancer, and less than 5 percent of these patients are still alive five years after they are diagnosed.

However, if lung cancer is caught early and treated surgically, the outcome is much better. The five-year survival rate in these cases is more than 50 percent. Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of lung cancers are caught early. This is where Low Radiation Dose CT lung cancer screening can help.

About the Low-Dose CT Screening Test

A low-dose computer tomography examination (called a low-dose CT scan or LDCT) is the test used to screen for lung cancer. It’s a simple and relatively safe test that uses low doses of radiation through an X-ray machine to take detailed pictures of the lungs. The goal is to find treatable lung cancer in its earliest stages.

There are some risks involved with the test, including false-positive results. This means that the test could suggest lung cancer when actually there is none present. The other risk is created by the radiation used during the test. Even though the dose is low, it can increase the risk of developing cancer in healthy people if the test is done repeatedly.

However, these risks are usually outweighed by the potential benefit for people who are more likely to develop lung cancer.

Who Should Be Screened?

Some people are at higher risk for lung cancer and should be screened through a low-dose CT scan. This includes people between 55 and 80 years old with a history of heavy smoking who are currently smoking or have quit within the last 15 years. Heavy smoking is defined as a history of 30 or more “pack years.” Additionally, the patient should be healthy enough for potential treatment if cancer is discovered.

A “pack year” is equal to smoking one pack of cigarettes every day for a year. For example, patients who qualify for the low-dose CT scan may have smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, or two packs of cigarettes a day for 15 years.

If you think you may benefit from a low-dose CT scan for lung cancer, talk to your doctor. It may be the most important step you take to catch lung cancer early and save your life.

Talk to a Patient Navigator

If you have specific questions about the Lung Screening Program, please call one of our lung navigators at 610-284-8158 or 484-446-3644.

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