The Lung Disease Center and the Altoona Lung Specialists have offered lung cancer screening for patients in high risk groups ever since a large national study (some of our patients were in it) showed that early detection could reduce the mortality due to lung cancer by nearly 20%. You are considered high risk if you are between 55 and 75 years old and have smoked at least 30 pack years. A pack year is the number of packs you smoke per day times the number of years you have smoked.
Recent data has shown that only a small percentage of at-risk patients are getting this screening. Initially, insurance companies did not pay for this type of screening, but now most will support this early detection effort. The question then becomes, why is the large majority of at-risk patients not enrolled in an early detection program, which simply requires a low-dose CT scan of the chest once a year? Here at the Lung Disease Center we usually incorporate this study as part of a patient’s annual or semi-annual visit. We can do the study here at the Center in a few minutes, can review it personally, and have an official reading usually in 24-48 hours.
At-risk patients stand to lose the potential for cure of a lung cancer that is found early. These patients lose the potential for removal, and lose the potential for more limited surgery with less post-op problems. This type of loss is no one’s gain.