Low dose CT improves lung cancer detection, survival rate

Patients with a history of smoking can get tested for lung cancer, and that test is now covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.

Carle has offered low-dose CT screenings (LDCT) for lung cancer since 2013. Starting this past February, most insurance plans began to cover the test. People need to talk with their insurance provider to see if LDCT  is covered by their plan.

LDCT uses a low dose of radiation, which protects the patients while it identifies potential lung cancer early.

“Before low-dose CT screening, most lung cancers were diagnosed after the tumor had grown quite large and possibly spread. At that point, the disease is very aggressive and hard to treat,” said radiologist Juan Jimenez, MD. “Thanks to LDCT testing, we can now screen patients’ lungs with the chance to discover and treat cancer in its early stages.”

“Low-dose CT screening can help save lives,” said Magesh Sundaram, MD, medical director of Carle Cancer Center. He added, “If we can catch the cancer early, the patient has a better chance of survival or even a cure.”

LDCT is for people who are at a high risk to develop lung cancer. High-risk patients are:

  • Between age 55 – 74
  • Currently a smoker or quit smoking in the last 15 years
  • Smoke an average of one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years

Charles Thomas had a LDCT, and the test caught lung cancer. A smoker for 51 years, he was apprehensive about the experience.

“I’m claustrophobic. I had a MRI 20 years ago and went berserk. But the machines today are so much better. I had my LDCT without any problems. Don’t let claustrophobia prevent you from getting screened.”

Thomas is being treated with chemotherapy and radiation and is optimistic about his future.

He added, “Don’t wait. Get the test now. It is an easy, painless test and can allow people to live longer and see their kids and grandkids grow up.”

"I've already talked to four of my friends about LDCT, and they are going to talk to their doctor about the test."

In addition to LDCT, Carle Cancer Center offers the patient a multi-specialty team of radiology, oncology, pulmonology and surgery to help streamline the care and follow-up of patients who require further testing or treatment.

“The main benefit of low-dose CT lung cancer screening is the ability to diagnose lung cancer in the earliest stage,” Jimenez said. “The exam takes only a few minutes, involves no needles and helps save lives.”

People at high-risk for lung cancer need to talk to their primary care physician about referring them for the cancer screening.  Patients are also encouraged to check with their health insurance to determine if LDCT is covered on their plan.   The candidate does not have to be a Carle patient to receive this screening.

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