New Screening Tool for Smokers Saves Lives

by Methodist Medical Center

The Methodist Lung Check can detect lung cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage—significantly increasing patient survival.

If you’re a current or former smoker, you may be living with a nagging fear of lung cancer. Lung cancer continues to be the number-one cause of death from cancer in the U.S., and smoking remains a major contributing factor. This January, the American Cancer Society issued a new recommendation that current and former smokers ages 55 and over should consider undergoing a low-dose CT scan. This recommendation follows the results of a major study by the National Cancer Institute, published in 2010, which found that annual CT screening for lung cancer can cut the death rate by 20 percent.

Like a mammogram, the screening is painless and takes only about 30 seconds. Computed tomography (CT) of the chest takes high-resolution pictures of the lungs, allowing physicians to detect any abnormal spots or nodules—many of which would be too small to see on a standard x-ray. Low-dose also means that this screening test uses much less radiation than a typical CT scan, usually cutting the regular dosage by between one-fifth and one-half. However, the downside of low-dose CT includes the possibility of false positives, which could lead to further testing.

The incidence of lung cancer is strongly correlated with cigarette smoking, with about 90 percent of lung cancer cases occurring as a result of tobacco use. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the time over which smoking has occurred. Doctors refer to this risk in terms of “pack-years” of smoking history—the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked.

Today, 80 percent of lung cancers have the chance to be cured if detected early. The Methodist Lung Check is a screening tool that aids doctors in detecting lung cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage. Radiation Oncologist Dr. Mathew Carpenter of the Methodist Cancer Institute says, “The Lung Check is a low-dose CT that looks inside the chest for early stages of lung cancer. It’s the only test proven to detect early lung cancer and improve survival.”

Current and former smokers ages 55 or older are at the greatest risk for developing lung cancer, and are candidates for this screening. The Methodist Lung Check includes a low-dose CT chest screening, lung cancer risk assessment, personalized cancer reduction and healthy lifestyle education, and information on reducing tobacco use. While the screening cost is generally not covered by insurance, the evaluation of any abnormal findings usually is. iBi

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