For the early detection of lung cancer in high risk individuals, The Medical Center now offers a lung cancer screening using low-dose computed tomography (CT). Screenings using low-dose CT can detect cancer early when it is most treatable.
A draft recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests that adults who have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer but who are at high risk for developing lung cancer should be screened every year with low-dose CT. High risk is defined as people who meet the following criteria:
- Are between 55 and 79 years old, and
- Have a history of heavy smoking, and
- Are either current smokers or who have quit within the past 15 years.
Heavy smoking is defined as a smoking history of 30 “pack years” or more. A “pack year” is smoking an average of one pack per day for one year. For example, someone is considered a heavy smoker if they smoke one pack per day for 30 years or smoke two packs per day for 15 years. Adults who meet the criteria above should also be asymptomatic for lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the symptoms of lung cancer include:
- A cough that does not go away or gets worse
- Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or weak
- Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
- New onset of wheezing
A low dose CT scan is a test which utilizes x-ray technology to scan the body. CT uses low doses of radiation to produce a series of detailed pictures of the lungs. Unlike traditional x-ray, CT can more accurately identify early stage cancer when it is most treatable.
The cost of the scan is $125 and currently not covered by insurance companies. The fee is payable at the time of service. Only individuals who meet the criteria should be screened using low-dose CT. To check eligibility for the screening, individuals can call The Medical Center at 270-745-1199 or 1-800-231-9621 or talk with their physician. Low-dose CT scans can be scheduled at The Medical Center in Bowling Green, Scottsville, or Franklin, or at Western Kentucky Diagnostic Imaging. A physician order is required for the screening.
About Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and in Kentucky. According to the Kentucky Cancer Consortium, Kentucky’s death rate from cancer is 46% higher than the national rate. Over 3,500 people died from lung cancer in 2010. It is estimated that over 4,500 cases of lung cancer are diagnosed each year. Of those cases, 80% are diagnosed at a late stage.
The number one risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. It is estimated that about 85 percent of lung cancers are caused by smoking. In the United States, Kentucky has the highest rate of smoking.
The risk of developing lung cancer increases with age, with most cancers occurring in people age 55 and older. The risk of lung cancer also increases with the amount and length of time someone smokes.