Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening

What Is Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening?

Screening for cancer means testing for cancer before there are any symptoms. Now there is a test that can reduce death from lung cancer through early detection. The test is not recommended for everyone and it has risks as well as benefits. Here is a discussion to help you decide.

Lung Cancer Screening

Q: Am I a candidate for lung cancer screening?

A: If you are:

  • a current or former smoker
  • and in the age group from 55 to 80 years (Medicare age range is 55-77)
  • and with a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (this means 1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
  • You are in the group at highest risk for lung cancer and screening for lung cancer is recommended.

You can learn more about eligibility criteria here.

Q: Should I get a CT scan to screen for lung cancer?

A: Talk to your own doctor about getting a CT scan to screen for lung cancer. Screening for lung cancer may save your life. Discuss your complete health history and ask for a clear explanation about the possible benefits and risk. There are some risks and not everyone should be screened for lung cancer. Only low-dose CT scans are recommended for screening. Chest X-rays are not recommended for lung cancer screening.

Q: What happens if I choose to get a CT scan for lung cancer?

A: There is some radiation risk with a CT scan and you may need to have additional tests and procedures. You should go to a hospital or screening center that has a team of experts who will clearly explain the procedure to you. The team should tell you about all the risks and benefits of the screening. They should also discuss what the results can mean and how they will follow up with you after the initial screening.

Q: What does it cost to have a CT scan for lung cancer?

A: The cost at Providence Imaging Center is approximately $550.00. Be sure to check with your insurance plan to see what is covered. Ask your doctor and the facility doing the CT scan to carefully and clearly explain all costs that you may possibly be charged and not just the cost of the CT scan alone.

Q: What do the results mean?

A: A “suspicious” result means that the CT scan shows something is abnormal. This could mean lung cancer. It could also mean some other condition. You may need to have additional procedures to find out exactly what is abnormal. If you do have lung cancer or some other condition, your doctor and the team of experts should discuss all possible treatment options with you. A “negative” result means that there were no abnormal findings at this time on this CT scan. It does not mean you absolutely do not have lung cancer. It does not mean that you will never get lung cancer. Your doctor should discuss when and if you should be tested again. Remember: The best way to prevent lung cancer is to never smoke or to stop smoking now. If you are still smoking, talk to your doctor about ways to help you quit smoking.

Q: I have Medicare. Will it pay for a lung cancer screening?

A: Yes. As of February 5, 2015, Medicare will pay for this test if you are age 55-77, and fit the criteria detailed in the decision memo released by CMS. Your provider must follow certain steps that include a lung cancer screening couseling and shared decision making visit. Ask your primary care provider for more information. Two Providence facilities in Anchorage currently accepting Medicare patients: the Providence Senior Care Clinic, and the Providence Family Medicine Center.

Q: I am from a provider’s office that would like to order this test for my patient. Where do I find your order form?

A: Find a copy of our new lung cancer screening order form on our Forms page, or download below.*

CT Lung Cancer Screening Order
CT Lung Cancer Screening Order
Version: 10-03-2017 v2
610.1 KiB

*The requesting clinician for patients who meet the eligibility criteria, must complete ALL sections of this form prior to scheduling, for our required reporting to a national registry. Learn more about eligibility criteria here.

Q: Where can I get more information about lung cancer and lung cancer screening?

A: You can contact the American Lung Association to find out more about lung cancer and lung cancer screening. Go to: www.Lung.org or Call: 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872)

Other resources for patients and providers are listed below.

For Patients

The American Lung Association has lung cancer education resources for patients and physicians.

Decision from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in a simple four page PDF.

CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) lung cancer screening decision memo. This includes a summary followed by detailed recommendations and requirements.

The University of Michigan has published a shared decision-making tool that will help physicians and patients make informed decisions about low-dose CT (LDCT) lung cancer screening. The tool is now available for use at shouldiscreen.com

An online resource for those who wish to learn more about smoking cessation – Smokefree.gov

For Providers

This article from Science Direct is written with primary care providers in mind.

Lung Cancer Screening with Low-Dose Computed Tomography for Primary Care Providers

Three page PDF file for providers from the USPSTF that summarizes what you should know when talking with your patients about screening for lung cancer.

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