Lung Cancer Screening

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States. It is the
leading cause of cancer deaths in American men and women. It kills more men than prostate and colon cancer combined and more women than breast and colon cancer combined.

Who is at risk for lung cancer?
More than 80 percent of lung cancers are associated with smoking. The more a person smokes and the younger the person started, the higher the risk. High levels of radon gas, air pollution, chest radiation, and asbestos exposure may also increase one’s risk.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Constant chest pain that may increase with coughing, laughing or deep breathing
  • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
  • Repeated bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing), wheezing or hoarseness
  • Weight loss or anorexia (loss of appetite)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever of unknown origin

However, symptoms usually do not occur until the disease is advanced. People with symptoms of lung cancer should discuss testing with their physicians.

Is there a screening test for lung cancer?
Yes, for asymptomatic (no symptoms) high risk patients. In June 2011, the National Cancer Institute announced the primary results of the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial. This study showed that high-risk persons who received at least three annual low-dose helical chest CT screens had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than participants who received standard chest x-rays.

Who qualifies as high risk to be screened for lung cancer?
Current and/or former heavy smokers (who have quit within the last 15 years) between the ages of 55-74 who have a 30 year pack history. Thirty pack history is defined either one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years, etc. However, a physician must order this screening test.

How good is the Screening Chest CT in detecting possible lung cancer?
No screening test is 100 percent reliable. It is possible to have lung cancer and it not be seen on the chest CT.  This is called a false negative. A false positive is when the screening shows something that is suspicious for lung cancer, but the person does not have lung cancer. In this instance, additional imaging tests and possibly a biopsy may need to be performed to rule out cancer. Also, the screening chest CT may find other disease that will require additional testing.

Ask about lung cancer screening?
Many private insurance providers, Medicare, and Medicaid are changing whether or not they will pay for all or part of lung cancer screening. The test will cost $135 and must be paid at the time of the procedure. It is also possible that further testing may be required. These costs may or may not be covered by one’s insurance plan.

To schedule a lung cancer screening, call 828/326-6065.

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