Medically reviewed by Scot Schultz, MD McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgical Associates
For years, regular chest X-rays were recommended for smokers and others, who were at high risk of lung cancer.
McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon Scot Schultz, MD told listeners to the Ken Ard radio show that low-dose CT Scans are now recommended and covered by health insurers for certain individuals.
“Surgery is reserved for early stage lung cancer,” Dr. Schultz said. “It may involve only part of a lung or an entire lung. Once the patient has had surgery and a hospital stay of 4 or 5 days, they have the potential to live a normal life. But it’s imperative that they stop smoking.”
“The problem is that 3 out of 4 cases are diagnosed too late for surgery (and a potential for cure) to be beneficial,” said Dr. Schultz. “Early detection of lung cancer is really the key to survival by getting patients diagnosed and into the system before they are at an advanced stage.
“Until recently, we really didn’t have reasonable tests for early detection, because lung cancers do not always show up well on conventional X-rays,” Dr. Schultz explained. “So, historically, we would wait until a patient developed symptoms – ether coughing up blood or shortness of breath, for example, before tests were ordered. We also tried to do sputum (spit) samples, where you cough up sputum and submit it for testing. However, these turned out to be very unreliable.”
THE BREAKTHROUGH STUDY
Dr. Schultz described the landmark study that opened the way for low-dose CT scan screening. “In 2011, a very important study of more than 53,000 patients – with former or active smokers — was reported. Results showed a low-dose CT scan of the chest was better than a chest X-ray for detecting lung cancers. In the study of patients 55 to 75 years of age with a 30-pack-year history of smoking (packs/day x years smoked), comparing CT scans to chest X-rays there was a 20% reduction in mortality (death) using CT Scans for diagnosis.”
ARE YOU A CANDIDATE?
Based on the results of this trial, in December 2013, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening for lung cancer using a low-dose CT in a specific group of patients:
If you meet these criteria, you are a candidate for receiving annual low-dose CT scans.
For more information on the McLeod Lung Cancer Screening Program, click here or call 843-777-5640.
If you don’t have Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance or can’t afford the deductible and you meet certain financial criteria scholarships are available from the McLeod Men’s group to assist in paying for the screening. To find out if you qualify for the scholarship, call McLeod Lung Nurse Navigator Beth Epps at 843-777-5640.