A low-dose CT scan could help you find lung cancer early

A lung cancer screening using a CT scan is easy, painless, worth it and, for many, inexpensive.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky has the highest rate of lung cancer in the U.S. If you’re at risk, catching it early is critical. A low-dose CT scan can help.

Lung cancer symptoms don’t usually show until the disease has advanced. But if caught early, the chance of surviving five years improves from 11% to 55%, according to the American Lung Association.

A lung cancer screening using a CT scan is:

  • Easy: The whole CT screening appointment can take less than 30 minutes.
  • Painless: You lie on a table that moves in and out of the scanner, which is shaped like a big, roomy doughnut.
  • Often inexpensive: Many insurance plans cover the scan without a copay if you are high risk or over age 55.
  • Worth it: Early detection significantly increases the chance of beating cancer.

Are you at risk for lung cancer?

If you think you could be at risk for lung cancer, don’t wait.

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Causes and risk factors for lung cancer

Smoking is the best-known and longest-studied cause of lung cancer. It is also the cause of other kinds of cancer, such as breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette smoking causes 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths in the United States. The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk for developing lung cancer. Even if you aren’t a smoker, if you are frequently around smoking you are at higher risk for lung cancer from secondhand smoke. Adults who do not smoke but who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20% to 30% increased risk of developing lung cancer. Sometimes there is no known trigger for lung cancer.

Besides smoking and secondhand smoke, other causes of lung cancer include: 

  • Radiation therapy: If you have had radiation to the chest for another type of cancer, it can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Exposure to radon gas: Radon is a naturally occurring gas. It comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. The gas becomes part of the air you breathe. Unsafe levels of radon can accumulate in any building, including homes. 
  • Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens: Exposure to asbestos and other substances known to cause cancer — such as arsenic, chromium and nickel — can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, especially if you’re a smoker.
  • Family history of lung cancer: If you have a parent, sibling or child with lung cancer, you may have an increased risk of the disease.

The American Cancer Society has a free lung cancer screening eligibility quiz.

Talk to your primary care provider about getting a low-dose CT lung cancer screening.

Benefits of low-dose CT screening for lung cancer

A review of lung cancer data in 2023 said LDCT screening resulted in a 20% reduction in lung cancer mortality compared with chest X-ray screening. LDCT screening found early-stage lung cancer cases more often than chest X-ray screening.

A low-dose lung CT scan is a type of X-ray that takes multiple pictures as you lie on a table that slides in and out of the machine. A computer combines the images into a complete picture of your lungs. Because it is “low dose,” it uses a lower amount of radiation than a traditional chest CT.

A low-dose CT scan is painless, takes just a few minutes and is able to detect even the smallest tumors. The whole appointment can take less than half an hour.

Paying for lung cancer screening

According to the American Lung Association, the initial low-dose CT scan can be covered without a copay if you are at high risk, between ages 50 and 80 and have private insurance, or are ages 50 to 70 and have Medicare. You may have a copay if you go to a facility that is not in your health plan’s network. When you make your appointment, confirm that the facility and the providers are in your health plan’s network to avoid extra costs.

Norton Cancer Institute is home to specialists offering some of the most advanced treatments and therapies. Patients who are screened and have a suspicious finding are paired with an oncology-certified thoracic services patient navigator. This is a nurse who can help ease stress and guide you through every phase of cancer care, from diagnosis through treatment and survivorship.

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