Lung Cancer Screening May Extend Life Expectancy

Male patient and doctor in hospital room offer consultation

Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States and the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. At University Hospitals, we believe we could change these statistics if more at-risk people would take advantage of a simple screening called Low-Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT).

Lung cancer is often a silent disease in the beginning, and may go undetected until it is at an advanced stage and more difficult to treat. The LDCT screening is intended to find cancer when it is still small and very treatable and may extend life expectancy. A fast and painless procedure, it has been proven to reduce the risk of dying in heavy smokers and former smokers who quit within the last 15 years. It is currently the only recommended screening for lung cancer.

How does it work?

Computed tomography uses X-ray technology to take pictures of the inside of the body. Unlike traditional X-rays, however, a CT scan can produce multiple, cross-sectional images that can be manipulated and viewed from different angles – it can even create a three dimensional picture of the body part being scanned. With LDCT, the scan creates detailed images of the lungs using a lower dose of radiation than traditional X-rays or CT scans. The images are then reviewed by a UH radiologist with expertise in lung cancer screening and treatment.

The LDCT screening is easy and fast. The entire visit takes 30 minutes or less and there is no special preparation needed – no fasting, no injections, and no solutions to drink. Regardless of the findings, lung cancer screening is a process. LDCT screening is recommended every year – or more frequently as directed by your physician - until you no longer meet the eligibility criteria.

Who is eligible?

Like many imaging tests, CT scans require the use of radiation. And, exposure to any radiation can pose a risk to your health. Even though the LDCT uses the lowest amount of radiation possible to obtain useful images, you and your doctor will need to have a discussion about whether the potential benefits outweigh the risks in your particular case. If you are found to be at-risk for lung cancer, the option of finding it early and treating it promptly will almost always be the best and safest choice.

In general, if you can answer yes to the following questions, then you are eligible for LDCT.

  • Are you between the ages of 55 and 77?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes now or are you a former cigarette smoker who quit less than 15 years ago?
  • On average, do/did you smoke one pack per day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years?
  • Are you symptom-free from lung cancer? (Symptoms may include hoarseness, a worsening cough, shortness of breath, unintentional weight loss and coughing up phlegm or blood.)

If eligible, of if you think you qualify, it is important to schedule time for a discussion with your physician. You will need to have a written order from your doctor before scheduling the test.

The most important thing you can do is DON’T SMOKE! University Hospitals offers free smoking cessation classes to all patients in the Lung Cancer Screening Program. Or, anyone who would like help in quitting can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Related links:

Learn more about LDCT
Lung cancer services at University Hospitals

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