Lung Cancer Screening for Early Detection
Lung cancer screening is a frequent topic on this website because of our firm belief that early detection reduces lung cancer deaths. This belief is backed up by the conclusions of several large studies that were summarized in our November 6, 2018, article on lung cancer screening.
- Screening reduced lung cancer mortality for both males and females—a reduction of 26% for males (at 10 years follow-up) and 39-61% for females (at various years of follow-up).
- 50% of lung cancers detected during the trial were very-early stage 1A cancers, 69% were stage 1A or 1B, and only 10-12% were diagnosed with more advanced stage IV lung cancers.
You might think that such an exam is not necessary or does not apply to you because your primary care physician has not recommended such a test. We were surprised to recently learn that only about 18 percent of physicians talk to their patients who are current smokers about the lung cancer screening exam, while fewer than 11 percent talk to patients who are former smokers about this test. One reason given as to why this conversation between physician and patient does not occur more frequently is that physicians do not have enough information about patient eligibility for the exam. We will speculate here that physicians also may not have enough information about insurance coverage for the exam.
Eligibility and Insurance Coverage for Lung Cancer Screening
- Eligibility criteria for a lung cancer screening exam are:
- Between 55 and 77 years of age (Some plans approve ages 55-80.)
- A 30 pack-year history of smoking (This is equivalent to smoking one pack per day for 30 years, two packs per day for 15 years, etc.)
- Still smoking OR quit within the last 15 years
- No current signs or symptoms of lung cancer.
The cost of an annual low-dose radiation CT lung cancer screening exam is covered by most insurance plans for those who meet the criteria listed above and who have the exam at an approved radiology facility such as Sarasota Interventional Radiology (SIR-Florida). Complete information about coverage by various plans: Medicare, employer-sponsored plan, state insurance marketplace plan, individual plan, and Medicaid, can be found on this chart from the American Lung Association.
Lung Cancer Screening at SIR-Florida
If you are a current or former smoker who is at high risk for lung cancer, we encourage you to schedule a CT lung cancer screening exam. At SIR-Florida in Sarasota, we use the ultra-low dose radiation CT scanning technology of the Hitachi SCENARIA to produce high quality cross-sectional images that detect many lung diseases and abnormalities, while using up to 90% less ionizing radiation than a conventional chest CT scan. SIR is the only facility in the tri-county area (Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte counties in Florida) that uses this particular technology.
In advance of the exam, we would like to give you some assurance that most screening exams are negative. However, in the event that your result may be positive for suspicious lung cancer, we can offer next steps, if necessary: lung biopsy and/or PET/CT scan in a comfortable outpatient setting. If these tests confirm the existence of lung cancer, we can work with your oncologist to perform several nonsurgical treatments alone or in conjunction with other treatments.
If you are reading this article, you obviously have some interest in this topic, perhaps because you or a loved one is a high-risk current or former smoker. Call SIR-Florida at 941-378-3231 to schedule an appointment for a lung cancer screening exam. No advance preparation is needed, and the exam is quick, convenient, and painless.