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When to Consider a Screening for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of death from cancer in this country. Individuals at high risk for lung cancer now have access to a low dose, low cost screening procedure. And, recently, this procedure became covered by most insurances and Medicare. Last year, Wake Radiology became the first local outpatient imaging practice to earn accreditation from the American College of Radiology as an designated lung cancer screening center. Dr. Carmelo Gullotto, a body imaging radiologist, explains who should consider talking with their doctor about having a lung cancer screening.

When to Consider a Screening for Lung Cancer
By: Carmelo Gullotto

Many patients ask about the process for being screened for lung cancer. We hope answers to questions we hear the most will help patients engage in a discussion with their primary care physician or prompt a call to talk with someone from our team.

Who should consider being screened?

  • Do you smoke?
    • If you answered yes, talk with your doctor about smoking cessation programs and medications that may help you quit. Stopping smoking, at any age, can improve your health.
    • If you are a smoker between the ages of 55 and 77, you are a prime candidate for a lung cancer screening.
  • Other criteria includes:
    • You have smoked for at least 1 pack per day for 30 years or 30 pack years.
    • You have smoked two packs per day for 15 years. This also equals or 30 pack years.
    • You are a current smoker.
    • You quit smoking during the past 15 years. Are you over 50 years old?

What screening is used to detect lung cancer? A low-dose dose chest CT is the only imaging test that has been shown to identify lung cancer and decrease the risk of dying from lung cancer in high risk patients. At Wake Radiology, we are extremely sensitive to the amount of radiation used during any CT procedure. We will carefully match your weight, height and other health considerations to the amount of radiation needed to accurately obtain the best quality images at the lowest possible radiation dose. 

Why should you be screened? During a large study called (the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST), people at high risk for lung cancer and who underwent annual, low dose screening chest CT were found to have a 20% reduction in their risk of dying from lung cancer when compared to people who were screened with only a chest x-ray. 

How often do you need to be screened? Both the National Cancer Institute  and Wake Radiology recommend that high risk patients be screened once every year. 

Where should you be screened? We recommend patients have their lung cancer screening at an imaging facility that has been accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR) as a designated lung cancer screening center.  Wake Radiology was the first outpatient imaging provider in the state to earn this designation. The ACR evaluates facilities to ensure that only up-to-date CT scanners that can perform the exam within specific parameters are used. This ensures that a low radiation dose is administered. The ACR also requires that the radiologists who interpret the lung cancer images are experienced in interpreting chest CT exams. All of the Wake Radiology’s CT scanners meet the ACR requirements and all lung screening exams are interpreted by body imaging radiologists who have received additional subspecialty fellowship training in imaging diseases of the chest, abdomen and pelvis.

  • Talk with Your Doctor about a Lung Cancer Screening

    Our scheduling team is available to help you schedule a lung cancer screening. Contact them at 919-232-4700 to learn which of our 20 imaging offices is most convenient to you or request Wake Radiology when talking about this screening with your doctor.

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