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Lung Cancer Screening

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Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. For people who smoke, the risk for developing lung cancer is much higher; more than 80 percent of lung cancer deaths result from smoking. Smoking-related lung cancer is preventable.

Lung cancer symptoms do not usually appear until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Even when symptoms do arise, people often mistake them for other problems like infections and smoking-related conditions.


What is lung cancer screening?

In 2010, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) released results from a large study of heavy cigarette smokers called the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST). The trial determined that yearly screening with a low-dose (CT) scan of the chest can save lives. In fact, the NLST evidence supporting CT scans in reducing deaths from lung cancer was so compelling that the study was concluded early so that patients could begin undergoing screenings. Since then several expert organizations, including the US Preventive Services Task Force, the American Cancer Society, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, recommend lung cancer screening for eligible patients.


Bassett Medical Center and Little Falls Hospital now offer the low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan, a state of the art lung cancer screening test that uses lower amounts of radiation than a standard CT scan to provide more detailed images of the chest. It is vital to be able to detect early stage cancers so that patients can begin treatment when they will be most responsive.


Frequently Asked Questions

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Who is eligible for lung cancer screening?

Lung cancer screening is recommended for patients who meet the following criteria:

  • Age 55 - 77 years old
  • Either current cigarette smokers or ex-smokers who have quit less than 15 years ago
  • Have smoked at least 30 or more pack years. This is the number of years smoked multiplied by the number of cigarettes smoked per day. For example, two packs per day smoked for 15 years equals 30 pack years. One pack per day smoked for 30 years equals 30 pack years.


Do I need a referral from my primary care provider (PCP)?

Yes. Your PCP must provide a written order for lung cancer screening after determining that you meet the above criteria.


How does low-dose lung cancer screening differ from standard CT scanning?

The low-dose scan is specifically designed to deliver quality screening images of the lungs using the lowest X-ray exposure possible. The test does not require administration of any contrast agent or placement of an intravenous (IV) catheter.

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What must I do to prepare for the procedure?

There is no preparation required for LDCT lung cancer screening.


What can I expect during the procedure?

CT scans are painless and safe. The patient must lie still on a table that slides into the scanner. The machine is shaped like a donut and spins around the body to take images. The procedure itself only takes a few minutes.


How and when will I get my test results?

Test results will be sent to your referring provider, who will review them with you.


What if my results are positive?

If your lung cancer screening test results are positive, you and your provider will discuss what comes next. Bassett's multidisciplinary team of pulmonologists, radiologists and medical, radiation and surgical oncologists work together to focus on the needs of the individual patient. Nurse navigators will help to answer your questions and connect you with the resources you need.


Will my health insurance cover the cost of my low-dose lung cancer screening?

The low-dose lung cancer screening is covered by most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, as long as a patient meets the criteria for screening. Every insurance plan is different, so patients are encouraged to verify coverage with their health insurance carrier.


If you or someone you love is considering lung cancer screening, speak with your primary care provider. Bassett Healthcare Network also offers smoking cessation courses and counseling. Smoking-related lung cancer is preventable. You can quit today.


Lung cancer screening is not a substitute for quitting smoking. Tobacco cessation counseling resources are available. For more information, call Bassett Medical Center's Smoking Cessation Program at 607-547-3028, or dial 1-866-NY-QUITS.

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