By Mehul Bhakta, MD, ARA Health Specialists
New survey data shows that most Americans don’t know how deadly lung cancer is and don’t know about lifesaving lung cancer screening. The American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative released the 2021 Lung Health Barometer on November 1, 2021, a new national survey that examines awareness, attitudes and beliefs about lung health and lung cancer. Of the 4,000 Americans surveyed only 29% of Americans know that lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of women and men.
Dr. Mehul Bhakta, M.D., Director of Body Imaging at ARA Health Specialists in Asheville, NC explains, “one reason lung cancer is so deadly is that patients often don’t notice symptoms until the disease is advanced and more difficult to treat. It may take years for lung cancer to grow and there usually are no symptoms early on. By the time you start to notice symptoms, the cancer often has spread to other parts of the body.”
How can lung cancer be caught earlier?
Individuals should consider a lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan (LDCT), which has been shown to save lives by finding lung cancer early, when it is easier to treat. In fact, the five-year survival rate has increased 33% in the past 10 years because of the advancements in treatment, research and lung cancer screening.
“Thanks to LDCT, more people are surviving than before, but this survey shows there’s a lot more work to be done to raise awareness and understanding of lung cancer and lung cancer screening,” said Dr. Bhakta.
Who is eligible for CT lung cancer screening?
Lung cancer screening is not appropriate for everyone. Yearly screening is recommended for appropriate patients who meet the following criteria:
- Age 55-77
- Have no symptoms of lung cancer
- Are currently smoking or quit within the past 15 years
- Have a 30 “pack year history” of smoking
- A “pack year” is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years you have smoked.
It is important to work with your primary care provider to determine the benefits and risks of screening to decide what is best for you. LDCT screening for lung cancer does require a referral.
How is the CT lung cancer screening performed?
The screening is one of the easiest screening exams you can have. The CT exam itself takes less than 5 minutes. No medications are given, and no needles are used. You can eat before and after the exam. You do not even need to get changed as long as the clothing on your chest does not contain metal. You must, however, be able to hold your breath for at least 6 seconds while the chest scan is being taken.
ls CT lung cancer screening covered by insurance?
LDCT to screen for lung cancer is covered by Medicare and private insurance plans for eligible patients.
How do I schedule a CT lung cancer screening?
Talk with your primary care physician or contact our ARA Cares Coordinator at (828) 436-5500 for help scheduling and preparing for your screening. ARA cares, and we’re here to help.