By Matthew Fowler, DO, PhD
Catawba Valley Pulmonology
Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in adults.
The American Cancer Society estimates over 234,000 new cases of lung cancer
are diagnosed each year with 154,000 lung cancer-associated deaths in
the United States. While prevention remains the most effective strategy
for reducing lung cancer-related deaths in the long term, screening for
lung cancer remains an important strategy for diagnosing and treating
It is estimated that only 15 percent of eligible patients have been screened
for lung cancer. The potential screening of lung cancers may increase
the overall cure rate by diagnosing these cancers in the earlier stages
of the disease.
The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is a low-dose CT scan.
The test only takes a few minutes and is not painful. During the test
a machine uses low-dose X-rays to make detailed images of your lungs,
which are carefully examined by a radiologist. Results of the scan help
to identify abnormal nodules or other findings that may be suspicious
for possible lung cancer.
If an abnormal finding or nodule is present on the low-dose CT screening,
additional diagnostics including further scans or biopsies are often needed
to determine whether an area of concern is in fact lung cancer.
Recommendations for lung cancer screening include:
- Patients who are in generally good health;
- Those at increased risk for lung cancer between the ages of 50 and 80 years old;
- Those at increased risk are defined as patients with at least a 20-pack-year
smoking history, and either current or former smokers who have quit in
the past 15 years;
- A commitment to follow-up and subsequent evaluation of abnormal findings.
One pack-year is equivalent to smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for
one year. For example a 20-pack-year smoker would be an individual who
smoked 1 pack per day for 20 years, or 2 packs per day for 10 years.
The best way to reduce your risk for lung cancer is not to smoke and to
avoid second-hand smoke. If you are a current or former smoker be sure
to discuss lung cancer screening with your primary care doctor or pulmonologist
at your next appointment. If you are determined to be a candidate for
lung cancer screening, your doctor can refer you for screening at an appropriate
facility. Most insurance plans and Medicare help pay for recommended lung
cancer screening tests. Check with your insurance plan to find out what
benefits are covered for lung cancer screening.
Catawba Valley Health System also has Interventional Pulmonologists experienced
in using advanced techniques in diagnosing lung cancer such as endobronchial
ultrasound and navigational bronchoscopy.
The Cancer Center at Catawba Valley Health System has a lung nodule program
and performs over 1,000 annual screenings each year. For more information,
please call 828-326-2781 or visit
Lung Cancer Screening - Catawba Valley Medical Center (catawbavalleyhealth.org).