Commentary: Should you be screened for lung cancer?

More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. During November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we want to talk about who should be screened for lung cancer.

Dr. Owen Thomas

Historically, lung cancer was rarely found in early stages, but the use of a relatively new Low Dose Computerized Tomography (LDCT) allows for patients at higher risk to be screened before symptoms occur, allowing for the discovery of lung cancer at early stages when the chances for successful outcomes is greatest.

The criteria established to identify those people who should consider early detection lung cancer screenings includes:

• Age 55-77

• Current smoker or a former smoker who quit in the last 15 years

• Must have smoked a total of 30 pack years or more (i.e. one pack per day for 30 years, two packs per day for 15 years, etc.)

• Must not have had a CT of the chest for any other reason during the past year

• No symptoms of lung cancer

How to make an appointment for a lung screening?

Since a doctor’s order is necessary for all tests, the plan to be screened starts with a discussion with your doctor to review the risks and benefits of LDCT lung cancer screening. To ensure a streamlined process at Beebe, we prefer the doctor fax the order to our pre-arrival department at (302) 645-3975.

A financial clearance specialist will make sure any needed authorization is obtained before calling the person to schedule an appointment. This can take one day or longer, depending on the insurance company. Appointments can often be made for the next day if desired at Beebe Healthcare’s locations in Lewes, Georgetown, and Millville.

Who pays for a lung screening?

Lung cancer screenings are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, Screening for Life, and most insurance plans if the patient meets the approved criteria. Some plans cover the screening subject to co-payments and deductibles, but others consider it a preventative screening without these fees. For those without insurance or who do not completely qualify by the accepted criteria, Beebe offers the test for $99 all-inclusive with a doctor’s order.

What to expect during a lung screening?

Lung cancer screening simply requires the patient to lay on a radiology table for approximately five minutes. There is no fasting required, no injections, and no restrictions after the test is completed.

Lung cancer screenings are completed by a radiology tech using a low-dose CT scan. The images are then read by a radiologist to determine if there is a concern for lung cancer. Your physician will then determine the next steps, which may include referral to a specialist.

What if it’s lung cancer? What are the next steps?

If it’s lung cancer, you and your physician, and our medical oncology team will work to determine the personalized plan for your treatment.

Smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer. Beebe offers free smoking cessation counseling in addition to its advanced lung program: www.beebehealthcare.org/smoking.

Dr. Owen Thomas, MD, is a radiation oncologist with Beebe Healthcare’s Tunnell Cancer Center, located at the Rehoboth Beach Health Campus on Route 24. For more information on Beebe Cancer Services, go to: www.beebehealthcare.org/tunnell-cancer-center.

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