Lung Cancer Screening: Low-Dose CT Could Be Key To Lung Cancer Survival

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Do you have concerns about lung cancer? Are you or someone you care about a current or previous smoker? Lung cancer is most treatable if found in its earliest stages. At UVA Radiology, we offer lung cancer screening with low-dose CT (LDCT) which can detect lung cancer before symptoms develop.

Lung Cancer Screenings Save Lives

Lung Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the tissue of one or both lungs.

Symptoms may include:

  • Coughing up blood
  • A new cough that worsens or doesn’t go away
  • New or worsening shortness of breath
  • Chest pain that is worse with breathing or coughing
  • Losing weight without meaning to
  • Changes to your voice, such as hoarseness

Unfortunately many people will not have symptoms until the cancer is more advanced.

While Lung Cancer annually affects over 210,000 Americans and is the number one cause of cancer related deaths, it is treatable if caught early. According to the American Lung Association, the probability of surviving 5 years or more improves by 56% if lung cancer is caught before it spreads. At UVA Radiology we offer low-dose CT scans (LDCT). This type of lung cancer screening accurately scans for lung nodules while limiting your exposure to radiation. LDCT is the only nationally recommended screening test for lung cancer.

Who Should be Screened for Lung Cancer?

It is recommended that people at higher risk for lung cancer have yearly lung cancer screenings. Therefore, it is important to understand your personal risk for lung cancer so that you can make the best decisions for your health. If you meet all three of the criteria below (the 2021 U.S. Preventative Services Task Force guidelines), you are considered to be at high risk for lung cancer and may qualify for low-dose CT lung cancer screening:

  • Are between the ages of 50-77
  • Currently smoke or quit within the past 15 years
  • Have smoked the equivalent of 1 pack a day for 20 years

For those at high risk of developing lung cancer, getting screened before symptoms begin to show could save your life.

Please note: always check with your insurance company before getting screened to make sure that they will cover the cost of the screening.

Advantages of LDCT Lung Cancer Screening

Infographic showing 4 Advantages of Low-Dose CT Lung Cancer Screenings

Low-dose CT (LDCT) lung screenings are a safe and relatively simple procedure to screen for lung cancer. They have several advantages over the traditional chest x-rays that were used in the past. Low-Dose CT technology was developed to increase accuracy in detecting lung cancer, use less radiation, and gather more detailed internal images in a shorter period of time. According to the American Cancer Society, research has shown that using LDCT scans to screen people at higher risk of lung cancer has saved more lives compared to traditional chest x-rays.

Low-dose CT is very safe, giving off less radiation than the average person gets from the sun each year, and 90% less radiation than a conventional CT scan. Additionally, this screening is extremely fast and noninvasive. Images are typically taken during a single breath hold. LDCT also requires no injection of contrast dye or the use of an IV. Most importantly, this technology provides highly detailed images so that radiologists can detect abnormal areas of the lung called lung nodules, small masses of tissue in the lungs that could potentially be cancerous.

Fortunately, less than 5% of lung nodules are actually cancerous. If lung nodules are very small, they can be followed with yearly LDCT. Nodules that don’t change from year to year are most likely benign (non-cancerous). These are usually the result of scarring in the lungs from smoking, emphysema, or previous infections. Nodules that change or grow over time are more concerning. That is why lung cancer screening involves a yearly CT scan and not just a one-time scan.

If a concerning lung nodule is found through low-dose CT screening, your healthcare provider may recommend further testing such as a biopsy. A biopsy is a tissue sample obtained from the potentially cancerous area in the lung, and is sent off to a lab for analysis. The lab analysis will determine whether or not you have lung cancer, and if so, the extent and nature of that cancer. When cancer is detected early, patients have an increased chance of survival and can have minimally invasive surgeries so that less lung tissue is removed.

Have Your LDCT Lung Screening at UVA

Image of a patient before receiving Low-Dose CT at the UVA Hospital.

At UVA Radiology, we encourage you to be proactive about your lung health and get screened. Our supportive staff will be there every step of the way to help you through the screening process and, if needed, in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

As one of the largest and most clinically active lung cancer clinics in the southeast, UVA offers the latest in research and technology to diagnose and treat cancers of the lung and chest cavity. The Lung Cancer Alliance has designated UVA as a Screening Center of Excellence. “What differentiates UVA is that we have established a comprehensive screening program, providing a system of support that goes beyond just the CT scan,” says thoracic radiologist Michael Hanley, MD.

To learn more about lung cancer screening at the UVA Cancer Center, click here. Make an Appointment today by calling 434.924.9333 or for more information, email lungcancerscreening@virginia.edu. For patients ages 50-54, check with your insurance provider to ensure you have coverage for screening.

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