Detecting a Killer Early

Early detection of lung cancer changes everything, from quality of life to treatment strategy. If you have a patient at high risk for lung cancer, a low-dose helical CT scan could save his or her life.

UT Southwestern offers a Lung Cancer Screening CT Program to help detect the disease in its early stages. Patients  should be aware that nearly one-quarter of CT scans will have abnormal findings, although most are not cancer. And while there is exposure to low doses of radiation, each low-dose screening CT scan is less than one-fifth the radiation dose of a regular chest CT scan.

“If you have a high-risk patient in need of a referral, CT screening at UT Southwestern can help us find lung cancer and potentially other diseases early, when treatment is effective,” says Joan Schiller, M.D., Director of the Lung Cancer Program at the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In a national trial involving more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers, researchers compared the effects of
two screening procedures for lung cancer — low-dose CT and standard chest X-ray — and found 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among trial participants screened with low-dose helical CT.

Screening is recommended for current and prior smokers ages 55 and older or other high-risk groups. The screening consists of one low-dose CT scan per year for three consecutive years and is not yet covered by insurance carriers. However, UTSW is offering the screening at a discounted rate to appropriate candidates.