Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. These poor outcomes are due, in part, to the diagnosis occurring at a time when treatment is no longer effective. Early detection of lung cancer through low-dose CT scans has proven to be an effective way to reduce mortality and improve outcomes.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends yearly lung cancer screening with low dose CT scans for people who:
- Have a history of heavy smoking, i.e., history of “30 pack years” of smoking, where “pack years” is the number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked
- Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years
- Are between 55 and 80 years old
The cost of low-dose CT scans are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurance plans for individuals at high risk for lung cancer and meet certain criteria. If you think you may meet the criteria for screening please talk to your healthcare provider.
Because of the proven linkage between smoking and cancer, there is no single intervention more effective at reducing cancer mortality than tobacco cessation. Smokers who quit before age 40 reduce their chance of dying too early from smoking-related diseases such as cancer by about 90 percent. Those who quit by age 45–54 reduce their chance of dying too early by about two-thirds. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, quitting smoking is the single most important step a smoker can take to improve the length and quality of his or her life. As soon as you quit, your body begins to repair the damage caused by smoking.
You can learn more about how to quit smoking
by contacting the Rutgers Tobacco Dependence Program at 732-235-8222.
Low Dose CT Scan
A low-dose computerized tomography (CT) scan has been proven to be effective in identifying lung cancer when it is most treatable. Utilizing a combination of x-ray techniques and computer technology, low-dose CT scans produce high quality images while reducing radiation dose. Radiologists customize each CT scan to each patient, following low dose radiation protocols to reduce radiation exposure by as much as 50 to 80 percent. The CT scanner uses an x-ray source similar to that used to obtain ordinary chest x-rays, however, the x-ray beam is so tightly focused that portions of the body outside of the scanned region get relatively little x-ray exposure.
The low-dose scan takes less than 60 seconds to complete. During the chest scan, patients must hold their breath for a few seconds. A computer creates 3-D images of small sections of the lung that offer excellent detail and enable the detection of very tiny lung lesions that are often smaller than one centimeter. Radiologists who specialize in evaluating lung CT scans review the results. The CT scan results are shared with the patient and the referring physician. Patient navigators are available to assist patients with scheduling the necessary follow up including appointments with oncologists to discuss appropriate treatment plans as well as with specialists to address benign findings.
Patients who are eligible and decide to get screened have a better chance of detecting lung cancer at an earlier and more treatable stage. Generally, by the time lung cancer signs and symptoms are noticeable, the cancer is usually at a very late stage. Detecting it early gives patients a chance for better outcomes.
The most effective way to reduce lung cancer risk is to quit smoking. We know that smoking gets your body hooked on tobacco. When you try to stop, you can feel nervous, tense, moody, sad, hungry, and have cravings. These feelings make it very hard to quit, but with support you can beat these feelings and quit for good! Screen NJ works closely with the Rutgers Tobacco Dependence Program to provide individuals and healthcare professionals with the tools they need to quit smoking.
Programs available to help you quit smoking: