SEATTLE – Middle-aged and older current and former longtime, heavy smokers – a group at high risk of lung cancer –can now be screened to detect possible early signs of the disease through a new program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance that uses a type of low-dose CT scan called helical computed tomography.
Early detection is a proven, successful strategy for fighting many forms of cancer. Detecting lung cancer at its earliest stage and having it surgically removed means a person can expect a five-year survival rate of almost 70 percent, according to statistics from the results of the National Lung Screening Trial that was published in 2011.
“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States,” said David Madtes, M.D., director of the Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic at SCCA. “More than 75 percent of people with lung cancer have incurable, locally advanced or metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis, and their five-year survival rate is less than 5 percent.
With low-dose CT monitoring of those at high risk of lung cancer, we hope to catch the disease early, when it is still curable.”
Although CT screening for lung cancer in high-risk individuals is a relatively new tool, its impact on health and health care costs is already making news. The National Lung Screening Trial found 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among the high-risk patients who were screened using low-dose CT compared to those who were screened with a standard chest X-ray. Low-dose
CT screening for high-risk individuals is more cost effective that screening for cervical, breast and colorectal cancers, according to an April 2012 report in the journal Health Affairs.
A low-dose CT scan takes about 10 minutes to complete; the entire appointment can take as little as 30 minutes. A report on each patient’s scan is sent to their primary care doctor for follow up.
Insurance likely will not cover the cost of the low-dose CT scan, which is $300. Any follow-up care required after the exam will be covered by insurance or Medicare/Medicaid. Individuals with scan results that are concerning for possible lung cancer can be referred to the SCCA’s Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic, which is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of lung cancer specialists. The availability of specialists distinguishes SCCA from other facilities that offer CT screening for lung cancer.
Current or former smokers (those who have quit within the last 15 years) who may benefit from CT screening at SCCA should:
- Be between the ages of 55 and 74
- Have smoked for 30 or more pack years. (“Pack years” is calculated by multiplying the average number of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years a person has smoked.)
- Have a primary care doctor who can make a referral to the screening program.
For more information, visit the CT scanning section on the SCCA web site or call 206-288-6734.
About Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) is a cancer treatment center that unites doctors from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s. Our goal, every day, is to turn cancer patients into cancer survivors. Our purpose is to lead the world in the prevention and treatment of cancer. SCCA has three clinical care sites: an outpatient clinic on the Hutchinson Center campus, a pediatric inpatient unit at Seattle Children’s, and an adult inpatient unit at UW Medical Center. For more information about SCCA, visit www.seattlecca.org.