CT Screening for Early Detection of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is often diagnosed in the late stages of the disease, largely because there are few or no symptoms in the early stages. Early detection changes everything, from quality of life to life expectancy.

UT Southwestern Medical Center offers a low-dose CT lung cancer screening to look for potentially cancerous spots in people at highest risk for developing lung cancer. If you are over 55 and have smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, your risk for lung cancer is high enough to be screened.

What Is a Lung Cancer Screening CT Exam?

Lung cancer screening with low-dose CT takes pictures of the lungs to look for potentially cancerous spots. CT images are better at finding abnormalities than a traditional chest X-ray. A screening trial of 53,454 current or former heavy smokers conducted by the National Cancer Institute in 2010 revealed that participants who received low-dose helical CT scans had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than participants who received standard chest X-rays.

The amount of radiation received during a lung cancer screening CT exam is less than the amount received annually from naturally occurring radiation that’s present in the environment. Our state-of-the-art imaging services are accredited by the American College of Radiology.

Patient Testimonial: Alicia’s Story

Alicia Ford-Anderson has seen up close and personal what lung cancer can do. She lost her husband to the disease and wondered whether her own long history of smoking – begun during the “glam” days of the ’60s – had damaged her singing voice and perhaps taken years from her own life. A CT screening for lung cancer gave her the answers she sought, and now she’s singing its praises.

What Is the Benefit of Lung Cancer Screening?

A key to successful treatment of lung cancer is early detection of the disease. The primary purpose of this CT screening exam is to detect and diagnose lung cancer at an early stage to improve treatment options and effectiveness. The images acquired are reviewed for the presence of lung nodules, masses, or other abnormalities suspicious for lung cancer. If treatment is needed, and you don’t currently have a provider, consider UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, the only NCI-designated cancer center in Dallas. Our Imaging Services is also the only NCI-designated center for Quantitative Imaging Excellence in Dallas.

Who Should Consider a Lung Cancer Screening CT Exam?

This screening program is for patients 55 years of age or older who have smoked at least the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years with no history of cancer and who do not have symptoms of lung cancer identified by a doctor. Screening remains an individual decision that should be discussed with a health care provider who can assist you in weighing the risks and benefits of the procedure.

Is There a Downside to Lung Cancer Screening?

CT scans can potentially pick up spots in the lungs that are ultimately revealed to be not cancerous, but their presence may lead to anxiety about the findings. The process to determine if these spots are benign or malignant can include additional procedures to help diagnose the findings and, in a small percentage of cases, may involve surgeries that would otherwise not be recommended. Also, the small dose of radiation from the exam poses a small and negligible risk of causing cancer.

Will My Insurance Pay for the Screening CT?

The CT screening may be covered by some health insurance carriers if certain criteria are met:

  1. Age 55 – 77 (80 for managed care)
  2. History of smoking 1 pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years
  3. No other lung disease issues
  4. If smoking was stopped, it was within the last 15 years or less

If you think you meet this criteria, please check with your primary care physician.

What Can I Expect During My Exam?

During your exam you will be lying flat on the CT table while the scanner rotates around you, gathering images of the inside of your lungs. The CT images provide the radiologist with detailed information that will be used to detect and diagnose disease. The entire screening exam typically requires a single breath hold and is usually completed in less than 10 seconds.

How Will I Get My Results?

A UT Southwestern radiologist will interpret the exam. The results will be provided to both you and the physician you designate when scheduling your appointment for the screening. As a follow-up to your exam, you can call the Lung Cancer Screening Program at 214-645-8300 to schedule an appointment to discuss the findings with a UT Southwestern pulmonary specialist. This appointment is not included in the screening fee, but we will check to confirm coverage by your health insurance provider.

Request an Appointment

To schedule a lung cancer screening CT exam at UT Southwestern’s facilities in Dallas or for more information about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.