Of all causes of death, lung cancer ranks second behind heart disease. According to the American Cancer Society, there are approximately 130,000 deaths per year in the US from lung cancer. More people die from lung cancer than from breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined. Smoking is by far the most significant risk factor for lung cancer. A landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated a 20% decrease in deaths from lung cancer in high risk patients who were screened by CT versus those screened by chest x-ray.
Lung screening CT can detect lung cancers at a significantly smaller size compared to chest x-ray, increasing the chances of successful treatment and survival. Earlier detection and treatment made possible by lung screening CT gives patients the best chance of surviving lung cancer.
Eligibility Criteria for Chest CT Screening:
The recommendations for lung cancer screening CT have been revised in March 2021 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF):
• patients between the ages of 50 and 80 AND:
• smoking history of 20 or more pack-years (pack years = number of packs/day x years) AND
• currently smoke or have quit smoking in the past 15 years
• no current symptoms.
A patient’s decision to pursue CT lung cancer screening should include a discussion with their health care provider that includes the potential benefits, risks, and costs of screening.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
How long is the exam?
The total scan time is less than 30 seconds. Allow approximately 5 minutes in the scan room to get positioned on the table and receive instruction from the technologist.
What about radiation?
The total radiation dose for a lung screening CT exam is equivalent to about 4 months radiation dose from background and environmental sources or about 10 chest X-rays. Mt Baker Imaging operates the newest CAT scanners in the area, with the latest technology to ensure the lowest radiation dose possible.
Will I receive contrast?
No oral or intravenous contrast is used for this exam.
Is there any need for special preparation or preliminary blood analysis?
No special preparation or lab analysis is necessary, however patients should avoid excessive caffeine, smoking, or vigorous exercise just prior to the exam.
When will I receive my results?
The lung screening CT will be interpreted by a board-certified radiologist with expertise in lung disease. A report of the findings will be available within 24 hours.
Your doctor will typically recommend yearly screening lung CT until age 80, or earlier if other health factors preclude further evaluation.
How to order a low dose screening chest CT:
• Review the eligibility requirements
• Mt. Baker Imaging requires a physician order for all lung screening CT studies. Self-referral is not accepted.
• On the day of the examination, the patient should bring identification and any insurance information.
For PeaceHealth providers:
In EPIC, search for RIS 3755 or in the MBI preference list search for MBI: CT Chest Screening WO contrast (LOW-DOSE SCREENING FOR LUNG CANCER).
For non-electronic orders:
On our CT referral sheet, under “Screening Exams” select “Lung Cancer Screening Chest CT for high-risk patients”.
The criteria for insurance coverage is:
- Age 50-80
- Current or prior smoker who has quit within the past 15 years, and cumulative smoking history of at least 20 pack-years*
- No current symptoms or prior history of lung cancer
*one pack-year=smoking one pack per day for one year
When speaking with insurance companies, the exam code is S8032 or 71271.
US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations for Lung Cancer Screening:
NLST Research Team, Reduced Lung-Cancer Mortality with Low-Dose Computed Tomographic Screening. N Engl J Med 2011; 365:395-409.