By John F. Ende, MD
Chances are that you have discussed cancer screening with your doctor. Most women over the age of 40 have undergone breast cancer screening with mammography. Most men have discussed the risks and benefits of a PSA blood level looking for prostate cancer with their doctor. Most of us past the age of 50 have undergone a rite of passage having had colonoscopy recommended by our primary care physician screening for early colon cancer.
In each of these cases we are screening for a disease before symptoms have developed – because early detection leads to the best treatment outcomes.
But did you know that there is another cancer that kills more Americans than breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer combined? Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the US, as well as worldwide.
Until 2011 we did not have proof that screening for lung cancer provided any benefit. Then, in June of that year the results of the National Lung Screening Trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine documenting reduced mortality from lung cancer in high-risk patients who had undergone a yearly low-dose CT (LDCT) screen of the lungs.
What is LDCT?
The process is a fast, low-dose CT scan of the lungs that is done in less than 10 seconds. It is referred to as “low dose” because of the low dosage of radiation emitted during the scan. The amount of radiation is one-quarter of the radiation used in standard CT scans.
Who is eligible for LDCT screenings?
- Age 55-77
- 30 pack/year history of smoking or greater
- Current smoker or quit within the past 15 years
- No symptoms of lung cancer
Medicare and most private insurers cover this exam yearly for high-risk patients between the ages of 55-77. The Mission Lung Cancer Screening program has now screened more than 2,000 patients for lung cancer.
John F. Ende, MD, is the Director of Body Imaging at Asheville Radiology.