If you smoke, quit! It is the single best thing you can do for your health. If you already quit, keep up the good work.
Whether you’re a past or present smoker, the habit has put you at a higher risk for lung cancer. Therefore, you might want to consider a quick, easy screening test.
“It’s a low-dose lung screening,” Edwards said. “It’s great for early detection, which can allow for early treatment.”
She said the test is the best option for early screening. Chest X-rays are not considered as effective in looking for lung cancer.
And screening is important:
“Lung cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms until it is advanced and hard to cure,” Edwards explained. Screening can identify a problem early when treatment is more effective.
“We suggest patients who smoke or who used to smoke talk to their doctor about it,” Edwards said. “Your doctor has to order the test for you, and you need to meet certain criteria in order for your insurance to potentially cover it.”
Generally, those criteria include:
- You are or were a regular smoker (defined as the equivalent of smoking a pack a day for a year)
- You currently smoke or quit within the last 15 years
- You’re between age 55 and 80
- You currently have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer
Your physician will do a lung cancer screening prior to ordering the test. He or she will counsel you about your lung cancer risks.
If your doctor does order the test, here’s what to expect:
The test itself is quick and easy. “It takes maybe 5 minutes, and it’s completely painless. There’s no contrast to take orally or by IV,” Edwards said.
Like with any CT scan, patients lie flat and still on a table. The machine passes over them to take detailed pictures of the lungs. A radiologist reviews the images to look for nodules.
“If the radiologist sees something, that information is sent back to the ordering physician, who then manages your care,” Edwards said.
A “positive” test means the scan showed a nodule of a concerning size. Your doctor may order additional screening or other tests, like a biopsy.
The test can also be “indeterminate.” Your doctor might recommend monitoring and additional imaging at a later time.
A “negative” test means your lungs appear normal. Still, high-risk patients should be screened annually, Edwards said. The screening is discontinued once it has been more than 15 years since a patient quit smoking.
Edwards said patients who are screened at the East Campus can expect their results to be read by their doctor within 48 hours.