Screening for Lung Cancer with Low Dose CT

Kelly Biggs, MD and Kelly O’Donovan, PA-C

Screening for lung cancer with low dose computed tomography (CT) is a new approach to fighting lung cancer.  If you are a current or former smoker between the age of 55 and 77 and have smoked 1 pack per day for 30 years or more, you may be eligible for this annual screening program.

Results from the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial published in 2011, a large study involving over 50,000 smokers, demonstrated lung cancer deaths are decreased by 20 percent for those who participate.  Because lung cancer kills over 150,000 people in the United States every year, screening CT has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.

CT is a widely available technology that rapidly acquires a 3 dimensional detailed picture of the inside of the human body.  Chest CT can detect small lung cancers in very early stage.  Thanks to modern surgical techniques, these cancers can be completely removed much more safely than in the past.  Doctors are using a special protocol to obtain images with less than one third of the radiation dose of a standard chest CT.

Lung cancer screening is not for everyone.  Patients must be in good enough health that, should a cancer be detected, they are willing and able to undergo curative surgery.  And while the benefits of screening CT are real, they are not a substitute for the far greater benefit of quitting smoking altogether!  Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about this new service.