Smokers and Former Smokers: Screen Often for Healthy Lungs
We don’t think much about our lungs, but these organs are always working hard for us. We take nearly 6 million breaths a year, breathing 12 to 15 times per minute when we’re at rest.
One of the best things we can do to keep our lungs healthy is to avoid smoking and secondhand exposure through people around us who smoke. If you do smoke, quitting can significantly reduce your chance of developing lung cancer over time.
Low-Dose CT Screening
If you’re a current or former smoker between the ages of 55-77 with a tobacco-smoking history of 30 pack years – 15 cigarettes per day for 40 years – it’s important to get routine screening for lung cancer.
“This is even if you show no signs or symptoms of lung cancer,” said Amie Sasser, Wayne UNC Health Care CT and MRI Interim Supervisor. “You just need an order from your doctor, and it takes about five minutes.”
A Low-Dose CT (LDCT) screening uses a very low dosage of radiation to produce a 3D scan of your lungs. To perform the exam, the technologist will ask you to lie down on the table, raise your arms over your head and hold your breath for a few seconds.
Sasser said some benefits of LDCT over other screening techniques are that patients are exposed to very low radiation and that the procedure is quick. “There’s also no contrast, and no IV,” said Sasser.
LDCT can also help doctors identify cancer the size of a rice grain, which is important because early diagnosis leads to better outcomes. Without screening, a patient’s cancer can go undiagnosed until later stages when they first notice symptoms.
The cost for LDCT varies based on insurance but is typically covered for patients meeting screening criteria.
Doctors recommend high-risk patients conduct screenings once a year, unless abnormalities are found.
At Wayne UNC, the CT team is often able to schedule patients for LDCT scans within a week and deliver results to your provider inside a 48-hour window. All CT technologists are registered with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), a leading credentialing organization for professionals in medical imaging. The team’s scanners, images and protocols are accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR). All Radiologists are board certified by the (ACR) as well.
“This accreditation certifies that our image quality is good and our radiation dose is within recommended guidelines,” said Sasser.
For more information on lung health and screening, visit our Wayne UNC Health Care Health Library. Or schedule an appointment with a primary care provider today to discuss your lung health and screening options.