Lung Cancer Screening
Are you a smoker? Or did you smoke in the past?
If you are a current or former smoker, your risk of developing lung cancer may be up to 25 times higher than someone who never smoked. A CT scan is the only proven effective way to screen for lung cancer. As you know, lung cancer that is caught early is more likely to be treatable and cured. Take charge of your health: get screened!
The Screening Test
Lung cancer screening is done using an imaging machine to produce a low-dose spiral (or helical) CT (Computed Tomography) scan of the chest. This scan uses a series of x-rays to show the shape, size and location of anything abnormal in the chest that might signal the need for follow up. CT scans are very sensitive and can show both cancerous and non-cancerous areas. To get a CT scan, the patient lies very still on a table, which is slowly moved through the CT scanner. An x-ray machine rotates around the person and takes pictures from many angles; a computer then combines the pictures into a very detailed image. The procedure takes less than 30 seconds. There are no medications or injections needed and there is no need to stop eating or drinking before the exam. As long as their clothing does not contain metal, patients may not even have to change. It is important, however, to be able to hold your breath for several seconds. That way, the lungs will not move during the scan and the images will be clear.
Myths and Facts for Lung Cancer Screening
“I feel fine. I don’t need to be tested.” Screening is a test specifically for those without any symptoms. People with lung cancer typically do not feel anything or have symptoms until the cancer has spread. If you are in a high risk group, consider screening even if you feel in perfect health.
"I don’t want to get screened because I don’t want extra radiation exposure.” This is a good issue to discuss with your doctor, but the benefit of screening for someone at high risk outweighs the small risks that come from low levels of radiation exposure.
“I quit smoking years ago so I don’t have to worry about lung cancer.” While quitting smoking is one of the most important things you have done for your health, your risk of lung cancer is still higher than that of someone who has never smoked. Think about what motivated you to quit smoking in the first place. Screening is an important part of continuing to take care of your health.
Who Should be Screened?
Risk factors include:
• People ages 50-77
• Those who currently smoke or who have quit within the past 15 years
• People who have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for 20+ years
Please call our nurse navigator to discuss the benefits and risks associated with lung cancer screening at 805.346.3463. Consider attending the forum listed here to learn more.