November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a fitting time to take action against the leading cause of cancer-related death among men and women. Smokers and former smokers, generally considered at high risk for lung cancer, are encouraged to schedule a lung CT (computed tomography) scan at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital. Medicare often covers the cost of the scan.
“Lung cancer is often not discovered until its final stages, so about 75 percent of lung cancer patients typically present with symptoms when the cancer is more advanced and the disease is no longer curable,” says Aparna Surapaneni, M.D., a radiation oncologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital. “Our goal is to identify patients at a much earlier stage when treatment is more effective and the patient has a much higher chance for cure.”
Lung CT Scan Versus Standard Chest X-ray
Unlike a standard chest X-ray, the lung CT scan takes multiple cross-sectional images of the entire chest.
Dr. Surapaneni cites convincing results from the National Lung Screening Trial, which studied more than 50,000 heavy smokers. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the trial compared the rate of lung cancer detection from CT scans compared to X-rays. Its findings, published in 2013, showed that lung CT scans were far more accurate and able to diagnose cancer at an earlier stage. In fact, individuals who received the low-dose lung CT scans had a 15 percent to 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than those who received standard chest X-rays.
Candidates for Screening
“Usually the recommendations for screening are highly correlated with a history of smoking, even if the individual has no symptoms,” Dr. Surapaneni explains. “A person between 55 to 79 years of age who has smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years should be screened. Individuals who quit smoking within the past 15 years are also recommended to be screened.”
A Quick and Comfortable Test
The order for a screening lung CT scan can be obtained from a patient’s primary care physician.
“The test itself is painless and utilizes a very low dose of radiation exposure, resulting in a low rate of exposure,” Dr. Surapaneni says. “There’s no IV, nothing to drink and no fasting requirements. The entire procedure, from entering and leaving the procedure room, only takes about 10 minutes. The scan itself is completed in less than one minute.”
Affordability Not an Issue
The cost of the CT lung scan is reasonable. Medicare covers the cost for eligible individuals. Most major commercial insurance carriers also cover the cost. If the patient has a problem with insurance approval, Memorial Hermann Greater Heights also offers at a cash price.
To schedule a lung CT scan at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights, call 713-867-3336.