Medicare Lung Cancer Screening
Surviving lung cancer depends on catching it early, and catching it early is difficult to do without screening. That's why Medicare covers an annual low-dose CT scan for people at high risk of developing lung cancer.
Who needs testing?
You are at high risk of developing lung cancer if all three of these things are true for you:
- You have a smoking history of 30 pack years or more. To figure your pack years, take the number of packs you smoked per day multiplied by the number of years you smoked. For example: If you smoked 2 packs a day for 15 years, that would be 30 pack years.
- You smoke now, or you quit within the last 15 years.
- You’re between 55 and 77 years old.
What are the risks and benefits?
The biggest benefit of lung cancer screening is that it can find lung cancer in its beginning stages, which helps lower the risk of dying from the disease.
Early diagnosis also means that doctors might be able to use minimally invasive surgery to remove the cancer and preserve more lung tissue.
Other benefits of low-dose CT lung cancer screening include:
- It’s fast, painless and noninvasive.
- It uses much less radiation than a traditional CT scan of the chest.
There are possible risks, including the chance that the test might indicate cancer when no cancer is present. This is called a false positive and can cause anxiety and lead to more invasive tests. Although it’s impossible to avoid all false-positive results, getting incredibly detailed imaging helps.
Lake Regional Imaging Center uses a 128-slice scanner that captures exceptional detail and does so at a high scan speed. That means patients do not have to hold their breath as long, so we get better images and need fewer rescans.
What if there's a concern?
If your screening identifies an area of concern, a Lake Regional pulmonologist can perform an endobronchial ultrasound, also called EBUS. In this procedure, the doctor uses a scope to view multiple areas of the lungs and to collect tissue samples. The doctor can then determine if there is cancer and if so, how far it has spread — all without invasive surgery. Learn more about EBUS.
How do I get the test?
If you are interested in receiving lung cancer screening, discuss the testing with your doctor. A physician’s order is required for the service. Find a doctor here.