Cary Medical Center Offering Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening
Low dose CT scan can identify cancer in early stages. Cary is the only hospital offering this type of screening north of Bangor.
Cary Medical Center is now offering Lung Cancer Screening through the use of ‘Low Dose’ computed tomography (LDCT) or CT Scan. Cary is the only hospital north of Bangor to be providing the screening and is one of only three hospitals in Maine participating in the National Radiology Data Registry. Through the registry data from the screening is captured not only from Cary Medical Center but from hospitals providing the exam across the country. The registry allows doctors at Cary to compare practice performance to regional and national benchmarks, which is an important tool for improving the quality of patient care. The information is used to refine protocols and ensure consistent standards of care to create the optimal screening scenario and follow up.
Through the lung cancer screening program, individuals who have a high risk for developing lung cancer but no signs or symptoms of the disease undergo the low dose scanning. Using CT Scanning radiologists use advanced computers to produce multiple cross-sections of the inside of the lungs. The technology allows for the detection of many lung diseases and abnormalities using up to 90 percent less radiation than a conventional chest CT scan. Dr. Shawn Laferriere, Chief of Radiology at Cary said that the Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening can be a life saver.
The implementation of this procedure has had a dramatic impact on the diagnosis of Lung Cancers in their earliest stages”, said Laferriere. “The guidelines for the screening have been developed over a number of years providing a consistent and evidence based approach. These advances in technology can now identify small, suspicious nodules that can be closely followed or biopsied. If we find a cancer in this early stage it can be surgically removed before it becomes a greater threat to the patient.”
If a finding is made through the low dose screening program patients are followed and will be screened on an annual basis. According to Laferriere the low dose aspect of the screening in many patients imparts a similar radiation dose similar to that of a mammogram.
The low dose nature of the procedure makes it possible for us to follow the patient on an annual basis to compare the original or baseline screening to subsequent studies, as we do with patients having annual mammograms. We can observe any changes and determine our treatment options based on these findings. This is really a significant milestone in the diagnosis, management and treatment of lung cancer”.
Prior to the use of this technology, when lung cancer is diagnosed the disease may already spread outside the lung in 15 – 30 percent of cases. Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and worldwide. Approximately 85 percent of lung cancer occurs in current or former smokers. It is estimated that there are more than 94 million current and former smokers in the United States, putting them at high risk for developing the disease.
The Lung Cancer Screening recommendations that propelled the program forward came about after the publication of a large, randomized clinical trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. The trial was used to find out if the screening could reduce death rates from lung cancer for individuals at high risk for the disease. More than 53,000 men and women aged 55 – 74 who were current smokers or who were former heavy smokers at 33 locations in the United States were studied. Each individual received either the low dose CT scan or standard chest x-ray once per year for three years. The trial showed a 20 percent reduction in lung cancer deaths among the participants who received the low dose CT scan.
A 20% reduction could mean thousands of lives saved”, said Dr. Laferriere who is directing the screening program at Cary Medical Center. “We now want to educate health care professionals here in the County as to the benefits of this program and to encourage individuals who are current smokers or were heavy smokers in the past to ask their doctors about the screening program”.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) has issued final national coverage determination that allows Medicare to pay for lung cancer screening using Low Dose CT Scanning. Medicare will cover the screening once per year for individuals who meet the following criteria:
They are 55 -77 years of age and are either current smokers or have quit smoking within the past 15 years; they have a tobacco history of a lease 30 “pack years” (an average of one pack per day for 30 years); and they receive a written order from a physician or qualified non-physician practitioner that meets certain requirements. Other commercial insurance companies may also cover the cost of the screening which is less than the traditional chest CT.
In addition to the lung screening program individuals who participate in the screening program will also have access to the ‘Patient Navigator’ program at Cary Medical Center. The program assists patients with information, scheduling appointments, transportation, child-care and other services to make services more convenient and accessible. Patients will each receive a separate letter from the radiology department explaining the results of their exam and who they can contact at Cary if they have questions or need help to quit smoking.
For more information on the lung cancer screening program visit http://www.radiologyinfo.org or speak with your health care provider.