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Sampson Regional Offers New Screening to Help Patients Detect Early Stages of Lung Cancer

October 23, 2018

A new screening now available at Sampson Regional’s Outpatient Diagnostics Center offers patients who are high-risk for developing lung cancer the opportunity to be screened.  Screenings help providers diagnosis at an early stage, even before symptoms develop. This screening requires a low dose computerized tomography scan, better known as a CT or CAT scan, that produces detailed images of the lungs and other structures located inside the chest cavity. 

 “The low dose scan exposes patients to less radiation than one would receive from a normal CT scan of the chest, making it a safe screening option for patients,” said Jamie Edwards, Interim Director of Radiology.  Because the CT equipment at the Outpatient Diagnostics Center can provide a low dose scan, patients can be screened for lung cancer and be diagnosed at an early stage, even before symptoms develop.  Evidence suggests that screening will detect approximately one half of lung cancer cases in early stages when surgery or curative intent is an option.   

Individuals must meet certain requirements, determined by your primary care provider, to be considered a high-risk patient.  High risk patients are individuals who meet the following risk factors:  history of heavy smoking*, current smoker or within the last 15 years, no current signs or symptoms of lung cancer and are between the ages of 55 to 80.  It is recommended that individuals who fall in the high-risk category receive a low dose scan every 12 months. 

Low dose CT scans of the chest for high risk patients are covered by Medicare and most insurance plans; however, it is recommended that patients check with their insurance provider for coverage details. 

“Cancer screenings can offer peace of mind, and when used as part of an annual preventive health check-up, it allows providers to see abnormalities within the lungs before symptoms are noticed, most often catching the cancer in early stages,” added Edwards. 

If an abnormality is found during the screening, the results are shared with the patient’s primary care provider for follow-up.  It is important to note that not all abnormalities found during a screening are diagnosed as early stage cancer, but further diagnostic testing may be recommended.  “Depending on the size of the abnormality detected during the screening, a diagnostic CT may be ordered to give your primary care provider more information to determine the appropriate level of care,” explained Edwards.

Diagnostic CT is also available at the Outpatient Diagnostics Center and is the only 64-slice CT in the local area that provides dramatically detailed images in just minutes.  “Having the clearest diagnostic image is important in arming your doctor with the information needed for the early treatment of lung cancer,” stated Edwards.   

Individuals who fall into a high-risk category for developing lung cancer should speak to their primary care provider about adding this screening to their annual preventive health plan.

*Heavy smoking is defined as a smoking history of 30 "pack years" or more.  A "pack year" is the number of years smoked multiplied by the number of packs of cigarettes per day.  For example, an individual that smoked one pack a day for 30 years (1x30=30) or two packs a day for 15 years (2x15=30) would be defined as a heavy smoker.