Lung Cancer Screenings

Finding lung cancer early through annual screenings.

At Palmetto Health, we encourage annual lung cancer screenings with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT), which have been shown to save lives by finding lung cancer early. Without a screening, lung cancer usually is not found until a person develops symptoms, at which time the cancer is much harder to treat.

Lung cancer screenings are recommended for people ages 55-77 and who have smoked an average of at least one pack per day for 30 years and who are at high risk for lung cancer. This includes people who still smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.

Those who have symptoms of a lung condition at the time of screening, such as a new cough or shortness of breath, are not eligible. For additional information about lung cancer screening, please see our Frequently Asked Questions below.
 

Call 803-296-CARE (2273) to see if you qualify and to schedule your exam.
 

Resources

Lung Cancer Screening Program – Physician Information

Lung Cancer Screening FAQs for Patients

Lung Cancer Screening Program – Flyer

CT Lung Cancer Screening Order Form


The criteria to order a lung cancer screening is:

  • Age 55-77 years
  • Asymptomatic (no signs or symptoms of lung cancer)
  • Tobacco smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (one pack-year = smoking one pack per day for one year; 1 pack = 20 cigarettes)
  • Current smoker or one who has quit smoking within the last 15 years
 

Frequently Asked Questions

Annual lung cancer screenings with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) have been shown to save lives by finding lung cancer early, when it is easier to treat. This FAQ answers many questions people typically have about LDCT lung cancer screenings. If you have additional questions, call 803-296-CARE (2273). 

What is the goal of LDCT lung cancer screening?
The goal of LDCT lung cancer screening is to save lives. Without a LDCT lung cancer screening, lung cancer usually is not found until a person develops symptoms. At that time, the cancer is much harder to treat.

Who should get an LDCT lung cancer screening exam?
LDCT lung cancer screenings are recommended for people who are at high risk for lung cancer, including those who are ages 55-77 and who have smoked an average of at least one pack per day for 30 years. This includes people who still smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Those who have symptoms of a lung condition at the time of screening, such as a new cough or shortness of breath, are not eligible.

Why does it matter if I have symptoms?
Certain symptoms can be a sign you have a condition in your lungs that should be evaluated and treated by your health care provider. These symptoms include fever, chest pain, a new or changing cough, shortness of breath you have never felt before, coughing up blood, or unexplained weight loss. Having any of these symptoms can greatly affect the results of lung cancer screening and may actually delay the treatment you might need.

I am at high-risk, but have been diagnosed with cancer in the past. Is a LDCT lung cancer screening appropriate for me?
It depends. In some cases, a LDCT lung cancer screening will not be appropriate, such as when your doctor is already following your cancer with CT scan studies. Your doctor will help determine if LDCT lung cancer screening is right for you.

Do I need to have an LDCT lung cancer screening exam every year?
Yes, a LDCT lung cancer screening exam is recommended every year until you are 80.

How effective is a LDCT lung cancer screening at preventing death from lung cancer?
One life was saved for every 320 high-risk people screened with LDCT over a two year period (three screens), resulting in a relative 20 percent lung cancer-specific mortality benefit versus annual chest radiography.

How is the exam performed?
LDCT lung cancer screening is one of the easiest screening exams you can have. The exam takes less than 10 seconds. No medications are given, and no needles are used. You can eat before and after the exam. You do not even need to get changed as long as the clothing on your chest does not contain metal. You must, however, be able to hold your breath for at least six seconds while the chest scan is being taken.

Are there any risks to having a LDCT lung cancer screening?
There are several risks and limitations to LDCT lung cancer screenings. We want to make sure we have done a good job explaining these to you, so let us know if you have any questions.

  • Radiation exposure: LDCT lung cancer screening uses radiation to create images of your lung. Radiation can increase a person’s risk of cancer. By using special techniques, the amount of radiation in LDCT lung cancer screening is small—about the same amount a person would receive from a screening mammogram.
  • False negatives: No test is perfect, including LDCT lung cancer screenings. It is possible you may have a medical condition, including lung cancer, that is not found during your exam. This is called a false negative.
  • False positives/additional testing: LDCT lung cancer screening very often finds something in the lung that could be cancer but, in fact, is not. This is called a false positive. A false positive result can be expected to occur 20 to 25 percent of the time. False positive tests often cause anxiety. In order to make sure these findings are not cancer, you may need to have more tests. These tests will be performed only if you give us permission. Occasionally, patients need a procedure, such as a biopsy, that can have potential side effects. For more information on false positives, see “What can I expect from the results?”
  • Findings not related to lung cancer: Your LDCT lung cancer screening exam also captures images of areas of your body next to your lungs. In a small percentage of cases (5−10 percent), the CT scan will show an abnormal finding in one of these areas, such as your kidneys, adrenal glands, liver or thyroid. This finding may not be serious; however, you may need to be examined further. Your health care provider can help determine what, if any, additional testing you may need.

How much does the lung cancer screening cost?
Medicare covers lung cancer screening with LDCT once per year for Medicare beneficiaries who meet all of the criteria mentioned earlier on this page. Be sure to check with your insurance plan for the screening and to see what is covered if the results of the CT scan show that you should have additional procedures. If you have specific questions about whether your particular insurance plans cover any of the cost of the lung cancer screening CT, you should personally contact your individual insurance carrier BEFORE having the screening CT performed. If you need help understanding your insurance coverage and you are a Palmetto Health team member, contact one of our patient financial counselors at 803-434-3834. Our patient financial counselors can help you understand your payment options.

What can I expect from the results?
About one out of four LDCT lung cancer screening exams will find something in the lung that may require additional imaging or evaluation. Most of the time these findings are lung nodules. Lung nodules are very small collections of tissue in the lung. These nodules are very common, and the vast majority – more than 97 percent – are not cancer (benign). Most are normal lymph nodes or small areas of scarring from past infections. Less commonly, lung nodules are cancer. If a small lung nodule is found to be cancer, the cancer can be cured more than 90 percent of the time. That is why we are screening you. To distinguish the large number of benign (noncancerous) nodules from the few nodules that are, in fact, cancer, we may need to get more images before your next yearly screening exam. If the nodule has suspicious features (for example, it is large, has an odd shape or grows over time), we will refer you to a specialist for further testing.

When will I get the results?
You will receive the results of your exam within one week. If you do not hear from us within one week, please call us at 803-296-3070.

Will my doctor also receive the results?
Yes. Your health care provider will receive a copy of your results.

Where can I find help to stop tobacco use?
The best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop tobacco use. For help with quitting tobacco products, call CareCall at 803-296-CARE (2273). If you have already stopped using tobacco products, congratulations and keep it up!

I think I qualify for a LDCT lung cancer screening. What should I do next?
Call 803-296-CARE (2273) to see if you qualify and to schedule your exam.

 

 

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