November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to consider whether you’re at risk for the disease and take steps to protect your health.

First of all, 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.

If 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.

Past and current smokers can benefit from an easy CT scan that detects lung cancer early.

Regional One Health’s East Campus Imaging Center offers a CT scan for smokers to check the lungs for possible red flags. The low-dose screening can lead to early detection, which in turn leads to early treatment.

The test is a patient’s best option for early screening. Chest X-rays are not considered as effective in looking for lung cancer.

Screening is important for lung cancer, since the disease may not cause symptoms until it is advanced and hard to cure. Screening can identify a problem early when treatment is more effective.

Patients who smoke or who used to smoke should talk to their doctor about getting screened. 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

    Radiologists read the scan to look for concerning nodules. They pass along the results to the ordering physician to discuss with the patient.

  • 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 about 5 minutes, and it’s completely painless. There’s no contrast to take orally or by IV.

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.

The East Campus Imaging Center has appointments available for CT lung cancer screenings.

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. The screening is discontinued once it has been more than 15 years since a patient quit smoking.

Patients who are screened at the East Campus can expect their results to be read by their doctor within 48 hours.

For more information, call 901-515-3600.