Did you know that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month? West Virginia has the second highest incidence of lung cancer among all the United States, and more West Virginians will die of lung cancer this year than from breast, colon, and prostate cancer COMBINED. Lung cancer is so deadly because it is often diagnosed too late for effective treatment, and has already spread elsewhere in the body. However, a national clinical trial in 2010 showed that screening certain eligible smokers with a yearly Low Dose CT scan (LDCT) could reduce lung cancer deaths by more than 20%.
A Low Dose CT scan is like a regular CT scan, but is designed specifically to look for early signs of lung cancer that show up as tiny nodules in the chest. If these nodules are caught early enough by regular screening, they can be treated more effectively with much better outcomes. A Low Dose CT also has a much lower dose of radiation than a normal CT scan, so it is safe to have this test every year for screening purposes. Just as women over 40 should get a mammogram every year to screen for breast cancer, eligible smokers and ex-smokers should get a yearly Low Dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer. The reduction in mortality shown by the clinical trial only holds for people who continue with the repeat annual screening - this is not a one-time test but instead is a yearly screening program.
Thomas Health has been offering Low Dose CT scans for the past several years. Medicare and most insurance plans now cover this screening exam if you are a smoker or ex-smoker who meets certain eligibility requirements.
You can visit Saved by the Scan to learn more about your personal risk of lung cancer and your eligibility for the screening program based on your smoking history. If you qualify, visit your primary care provider to get an order for your Low Dose CT, and have the test at your choice of three Thomas Health locations: Thomas Memorial Hospital, St. Francis Hospital or Thomas Imaging Center.