— A lung cancer screening method that is recommended for
long-term smokers, whether they have quit or not, promises to
detect cancer at its earliest and most curable stages.
However, most insurance does not cover the cost, and
participation has been limited.
awareness of the screening and its potential, West Penn
Hospital is now offering low-dose computer tomography
screening for free, supported by a grant from Highmark, a
national health and wellness company. High-risk patients ages
55 to 74 are eligible for the program and must have a history
of smoking a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15
years. They must either be current smokers or have quit within
the past 15 years.
be a life-saving opportunity, said Lana Schumacher, a thoracic
surgical oncologist and co-director at the Esophageal and
Thoracic Institute at Allegheny Health Network. Lung cancer is
the third most common cancer in the U.S. and the leading cause
of cancer death.
patients are too worried to get a scan, worried we’ll find
something," Dr. Schumacher said, adding that patients
should know that even if cancer is found, if it’s in an
early stage before symptoms appear, "the survival rate
goes up dramatically, to 85-90 percent over five years. Once a
person shows symptoms, it’s a five-year survival rate of 15
benefits were shown in 2011 by the National Lung Screening
Trial. Participants who received the low-dose CT scans had a
20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than
participants who received standard chest X-rays. Annual scans
are recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.
Penn screening is part of a pilot project for the Allegheny
Health Network, which plans to implement it throughout the
test does not require any preparation or injections. Patients
can make an appointment by calling a phone line. A lung cancer
nurse navigator will contact them and lead them through the
screening process and explain the implications of results.
the future we hope insurance companies will reimburse
this," Dr. Schumacher said. The radiation exposure in the
screening, she said, "is a little bit more than an X-ray,
a lot less than you get for a CAT scan. They’re just looking
for nodules in the lung, they don’t need the higher
dose." People get more exposure in radiation from the
environment around them, she explained.
oncologist said the pilot study will follow up on its patients
to demonstrate its value in preventative health care.
track the participants in a database, track them over time and
see if we are making a difference."