Key Facts About Lung Cancer Screening (LCS)
- Until recently, there has been no effective way to detect lung cancer early enough to prevent people from dying of lung cancer.
- This has now changed. A large national study has shown that screening for lung cancer using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT), also known as a “CAT scan” of the chest, can reduce the risk of dying among current and former smokers, who are at high risk of lung cancer.
- For this reason, leading professional organizations have recommended annual LDCT screening for current and former smokers at high risk of developing lung cancer.
- LDCT scan takes only a few minutes and involves no preparation or discomfort
- LDCT is not recommended for everyone and not everyone benefits from screening:
- people who have smoked for less than 30 pack-years (1 pack per day for 30 years)
- people who quit smoking more than 15 years ago
- younger than 55 or older than 77 years of age
- people who are in poor health
- Some patients may have “false alarms”—findings that appear abnormal but are not. These false positive results may lead to anxiety and unnecessary testing and treatments that have their own risks.
- The LDCT scan, like all x-ray tests, involves a small amount of radiation exposure
- Whether you should be screened for lung cancer should be based on an informed and shared decision made with your health care provider.
The Maine Comprehensive Lung Screening Program is led by a specially trained nurse practitioner (NP) who will “navigate” patients through the screening process. The LCS NP will provide education, guidance and support throughout the screening process. Our comprehensive LCS Team is made up of a multi-disciplinary group of providers with expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. This team includes radiologists, pulmonologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, thoracic surgeons and tobacco treatment specialists. The lung cancer screening program provides the following services:
- Lung cancer risk evaluation
- Education and counseling about lung cancer screening and LDCT
- LDCT scan and interpretation
- Follow-up testing and treatment based on LDCT results
- Referral to smoking cessation counseling and treatment resources
- The team is also committed to keeping your PCP updated on results and recommendations
Is LDCT screening covered by my insurance?
LDCT screening is now recognized as a recommended screening by the United States Preventive Services Task Force. Since Medicare began paying for lung cancer screening in 2015, most major insurers have added this to their list of covered services. Our staff will contact your insurer to confirm coverage before your appointment. If your insurance company does not cover this screening, or if you are uninsured, we will work with you to explore other options to cover the screening costs.
Do I need a referral from my Primary Care Provider (PCP)?
At this time we do require a referral from a PCP to enroll in the lung cancer screening program. If you do not have a PCP our staff will work with you to help you establish care with an available provider.
How does the lung cancer screening process work?
Once a referral for lung cancer screening is received in our office, you will be contacted by phone by the program LCS NP. A few simple questions about your smoking history and overall health status will be asked to confirm your eligibility to participate in lung cancer screening. You will be given an opportunity to ask questions as well. If you are eligible and wish to participate, you will be given an appointment for a face to face visit with the LCS NP. At this “shared decision making appointment” you will discuss the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening and whether it is right for you. If you decide to proceed, an appointment for the actual low dose CT scan will be made with the MMC Radiology Department
How will I be informed of my results?
If your results are normal or not suspicious for lung cancer you will be notified by telephone, usually within 48 hours of the scan. A follow up appointment with the LCS NP will be scheduled to discuss all other results and a follow up plan of care. The LCS NP will also be responsible for notifying your PCP of your LDCT results and additional recommendations.
How often will I be scanned?
The lung cancer screening guidelines recommend a yearly LDCT for as long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria. Follow up scanning and other diagnostic testing for abnormal results are ordered based on the recommendations of the multi-disciplinary lung cancer screening team.
For More Information on LCS
For additional information about the Maine Comprehensive Lung Screening Program please contact:
The Maine Comprehensive Lung Screening Program
Theresa Roelke, GNP
Lung Screening Navigator
Gary M. Hochheiser, M.D.
General information on LCS screening can also be found through the following organizations:
Resources to Help Quit Smoking
Whether or not you choose to have a LDCT scan for lung cancer screening, the best thing you can do to lower your risk of lung cancer is to stop smoking. If you are considering stopping smoking, or if you’ve already made the decision to stop, here are resources that may be helpful.