Lung Cancer Screening with Computerized Tomography
Lung Cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer.Screening for cancer before the person has any signs or symptoms can help find cancer at an early stage. When abnormal tissue (cancer) is found early, it may be easier to treat. Earlier treatment has been shown to reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer in high risk patients. Earlier treatment for lung cancer is often times less extensive, resulting in the preservation of more lung tissue.
Your primary care provider can help you decide whether this cancer screening is right for you. Discuss any concerns that you may have with your provider. If you meet the following high risk criteria for lung cancer, your doctor will talk to you about starting a screening program and ordering the first CT for Lung Cancer Screening.
- You must be a current or former smoker
- You must be age 55 – 77 years
- If a former smoker you must have quit smoking within the last 15 years
- You must have smoked over 30 pack years (Years Smoked X Packs per Day must = 30 or greater)
- You have no current signs or symptoms of lung cancer such as cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing up blood, or pain in the chest
- You must have a special visit with your doctor about this decision and the risks and benefits of this procedure
The recommended screening test for lung cancer is low dose computer tomography, otherwise known as a low dose CT. In this radiology test a specialized X-Ray machine scans the chest and uses low doses of radiation to make a detailed picture of the lungs. The low dose CT exposes the patient to less radiation that a regular chest CT.
This is a painless diagnostic test that takes about 30 minutes to complete. This test will be reviewed and interpreted by a Radiologist. A Radiologist is a doctor that is an expert in interpreting radiology tests.
Your doctor will discuss your results with you. If the test is negative your healthcare provider may recommend continuing with yearly screenings to see if there are any new changes. Reminder letters will be sent out to you to help you remember.
If a screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have further testing done to find out if it is cancer. You may need to repeat the screening test in 3-6 months. Other tests may also be ordered depending on the findings from the original screening test.
Important Information about Lung Cancer ScreeningYou should understand the benefits and risks of the Lung Cancer Screening to see if it is the right choice for you. Every screening test has both benefits and risks.
Some of the risks are:
- False Positive screening results: results that appear abnormal but no lung cancer is found
- False Negative screening results: results that appear normal when lung cancer is present
- Screening tests can lead to detection and treatment of conditions that may not have otherwise harmed you if left undetected
- Radiation Exposure: Even though there is a risk of cancer from exposure to radiation, the lifetime risk of a fatal cancer resulting from exposure from a low dose CT is classified as Very Low. (Risk ranges from 1:1,000,000 to 1:100,000)
You should adhere to the annual screening test if recommended and are committed to the follow up treatment if it is necessary.
You should know the impact of comorbidities such as diabetes or heart disease on the development and management of Lung Cancer. Screening is not recommended for individuals in otherwise poor health that could not benefit from treatment.
You should QUIT smoking or continue abstinence from smoking if you are a former smoker.
Ask your provider for information about smoking cessation support like the ND Quits Online or over the phone at 1.800.QUIT.NOW (1.800.784.8669).
This Lung Cancer Screening is covered by most insurances. You should check with your insurance company before starting the screening tests.
Preparing for your CT Lung Cancer Screening
Prep: None. No special preparation is needed.
Procedure: The CT technologist will position you on the scanning table on your back and guide the table into the CT unit. The technologist will not be in the room during the scan, but will be able to observe you through a window from an adjacent room and will be able to hear you and talk to you through a two-way microphone system. The technologist will tell you when each scan sequence is beginning and how long it will last. For certain parts of the scan, you may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds. Even the slightest movement can blur the image so it is important to hold still during the exam.
Smoking Cessation is Very Important
Nicotine: A Powerful AddictionIf you have tried to quit smoking, you know how hard it can be. It is hard because nicotine is a very addictive drug. For some people, it can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Quitting is hard. Usually people make 2 or 3 tries, or more, before finally being able to quit. Each time you try to quit, you can learn about what helps. Quitting takes hard work and a lot of effort, but you can quit smoking.
Quitting Smoking is one of the Most Important Things You Can Do
- You will live longer and live better.
- Quitting will lower your chance of having a heart attack, stroke, lung disease, or cancer.
- If you are pregnant, quitting smoking will improve your chances of having a healthy baby.
- The people you live with, especially your children, will be healthier.
- You will have extra money to spend on things other than cigarettes.
Five Keys for Quitting
Studies have shown that these five steps will help you quit and quit for good. You have the best chances of quitting if you use them together:
- Get ready.
- Get support.
- Learn new skills and behaviors.
- Get medication and use it correctly.
- Be prepared for relapse or difficult situations.
1. Get Ready
- Set a quit date.
- Change your environment.
- Get rid of ALL cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and place of work.
- Don't let people smoke in your home.
- Review your past attempts to quit. Think about what worked and what did not.
- Once you quit, don't smoke, NOT EVEN A PUFF!
2. Get Support and EncouragementStudies have shown that you have a better chance of being successful if you have help. You can get support in many ways:
- Tell your family, friends, and coworkers that you are going to quit and want their support. Ask them not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes out.
- Talk to your health care provider (for example, doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, psychologist, or smoking counselor).
- Get individual, group, or telephone counseling. The more counseling you have, the better your chances are of quitting. Programs are given at local hospitals and health centers. Call your local health department for information about programs in your area.
3. Learn New Skills and Behaviors
- Try to distract yourself from urges to smoke. Talk to someone, go for a walk, or get busy with a task.
- When you first try to quit, change your routine. Use a different route to work. Drink tea instead of coffee. Eat breakfast in a different place.
- Do something to reduce your stress. Take a hot bath, exercise, or read a book.
- Plan something enjoyable to do every day.
- Drink a lot of water and other fluids.
4. Get Medication and Use It CorrectlyMedications can help you stop smoking and lessen the urge to smoke. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved medications to help you quit smoking:
- Chantix (varenicline) - Available by prescription
- Bupropion SR - Available by prescription
- Nicotine gum - Available over-the-counter
- Nicotine inhaler - Available by prescription
- Nicotine nasal spray - Available by prescription
- Nicotine patch - Available by prescription and over-the-counter
- Nicotine Lollipop - Available over the counter at Medicine Shoppe
Ask your health care provider for advice and carefully read the information on the medication package. All of these medications will more or less double your chances of quitting and quitting for good. Everyone who is trying to quit may benefit from using a medication.
If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, breastfeeding, under age 18, smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes per day, or have any other medical condition; talk to your doctor or other health care provider before any taking medications.
5. Be Prepared for Relapse or Difficult TimesMost relapses occur within the first 3 months after quitting. Don't be discouraged if you start smoking again. Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit. Here are some difficult situations to watch for:
- Alcohol: Avoid drinking alcohol. Drinking lowers your chances of success.
- Other smokers: Being around smoking can make you want to smoke.
- Weight gain: Many smokers will gain weight when they quit, usually less than 10 pounds. Eat a healthy diet and stay active. Don't let weight gain distract you from your main goal, quitting smoking. Some quit-smoking medications may help delay weight gain.
- Bad mood or depression: There are a lot of ways to improve your mood other than smoking.
- If you are having problems with any of these situations, talk to your doctor or other health care provider.
Special Situations or ConsiderationsStudies suggest that everyone can quit smoking. Your situation or condition can give you a special reason to quit.
- Pregnant women/new mothers: By quitting, you protect your baby's health and your own.
- Hospitalized patients: By quitting, you reduce health problems and help healing.
- Heart attack patients: By quitting, you reduce your risk of a second heart attack.
- Lung, head, and neck cancer patients: By quitting, you reduce your chance of a second cancer.
- Parents of children and adolescents: By quitting, you protect your children and adolescents from illnesses caused by second-hand smoke.