Lung Cancer Screenings


What is a CT lung cancer screen and how is it performed?
A CT lung cancer screen is a low-dose scan that can detect lung cancer in its earliest stages when it is easiest to treat. CT lung cancer screens are easy - no medications, needles or food restrictions are required. You must however, be able to hold your breath for about 10 seconds. Patients simply lie down, place their hands over their head and are slipped in and out of the CT tunnel. The actual scan takes less than 10 seconds.

What are the risks?
Radiation exposure: Each day, we are exposed to background or natural occurring radiation. For patients who are high risk for developing lung cancer, the benefits of having a CT lung cancer screen far outweigh the risks associated with the small amount of radiation exposure.

  • False negatives: Low-dose CT cannot detect all lung cancers. It is possible to have a lung cancer that is not detected during the CT screen.
  • False positives: CT scans are very sensitive. They can identify pulmonary nodules that may look suspicious but are actually benign, or noncancerous. Depending on the size and appearance of the nodule, follow up CTs may be recommended to monitor changes in nodule size, or an invasive procedure, such as a needle biopsy, bronchoscopy or surgery, may be recommended to determine if the nodule is actually cancerous.

What are the possible results of my CT lung cancer screening?
The purpose of performing a CT lung cancer screen is to identify pulmonary (lung) nodules. Lung nodules are quite common and may develop for many reasons, such as inflammation, infection, scar tissue, abnormal tissue formation, blood vessel abnormalities, primary lung cancer or cancer from other areas of the body.

  • Nodules will be found on approximately 50 percent of CT chest scans of smokers over the age of 50, but the vast majority of these lung nodules are noncancerous.
  • Findings: If no identifiable nodules are found, the exam is considered negative. If the scan identifies a nodule, additional tests may be ordered.
  • Incidental findings: A CT of the lungs covers from the top of the chest to just below the diaphragm. Beside the lungs, there are other organs, soft tissue and bone structures that will be imaged. An incidental finding is the discovery of a pathology or disease process other than a pulmonary nodule. Some common incidental findings include an enlarged heart, hiatal hernia or pneumonia. Incidental findings may require a follow-up appointment with your physician.

Who is eligible? Patients must:

  • Have a written order for Low Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) from a qualified health professional following a lung cancer screening counseling that attests to shared decision making having taken place before the first screening CT, AND,
  • Be age 55-77,
  • Have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer,
  • Tobacco history of at least one pack a day for 30 years (cigarettes only),
  • Be a current smoker or have quit smoking within the last 15 years.

If you are interested in scheduling a Low Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) lung cancer screening, please contact your physician. For additional questions, contact Liberty Hospital Scheduling Department at 816-792-7016.

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