TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) _ While the number of lung cancer cases is going down, it still accounts for about 27 percent of all cancer deaths.
Dr. Timothy Allen, an interventional radiologist at Stormont-Vail HealthCare in Topeka, said the long odds are because most patients are not diagnosed until the cancer has progressed beyond a curative stage.
But Stormont is now offering a special low-dose CT screening to high-risk patients which is aimed at catching the cancer early. Allen says it is about half the dose of a regular CT scan and it's optimized to look at the lungs, picking up irregulatiries a few millimeters in size, at a time when they can be removed effectively.
The screening is for patients ages 55 to 75 with significant history of smoking. Allen says that is generally defined as at least a pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years, even if they've since quit. He says it's recommended those patients get the screening annually. If something is found, it might be repeated sooner to monitor whether the suspicious area is changing.
Right now, the screening is only shown to be beneficial for those highest risk patients. Allen says the scan does expose patients to radiation, and health care professionals are mindful to not do that unnecessarily.
The screening costs $200 and most people will have to pay out of pocket, since not all insurance covers it. Medicare is among those that does not cover it, however, dozens of members of Congress recently signed letters, urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to approve coverage of the screening.