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Lung Scan  

Lung cancer is responsible for deaths of more Americans than any other type of cancer. The majority of individuals with lung cancer do not survive 5 years. However, if the lung cancer is identified early and treated, at least 70-80% survive the first 2 years. Lung ScanDetection of early lung cancer is very important if we are to improve survival rates. CT scans play a major role in the screening/detection of lung cancers in the early stages. Lung cancer tumors are typically the size of an orange by the time they are discovered through a conventional x-ray – and at this stage the cancer has usually spread.

Is a simple chest x ray good enough to detect lung cancer?

No, the resolution of a chest x ray is much lower than a CT scan. By the time a lung cancer is seen on a chest x ray, the lung cancer is generally too large for surgery. Chest x rays are not useful tools for lung cancer screening. A chest x ray can only detect lung masses that are the size of an orange.

What is a CT scan of the chest?

CT scan is a useful test to identify and screen for lung cancers. The cancers are identified in their early stages at which they can be treated. The CT scan images the entire chest and the mediastinum (the middle past of the chest which contains important structures). The CT scan can detect very small masses in the lung. By detecting cancerous tumors at an early stage, an individual's survival rate may be significantly improved.

Who should get a CT of the chest?

CT scan of the chest is a useful screening test for individuals who are at risk for lung cancers. Individuals with the following risk factors should get a CT chest

  • Individuals who smoke cigarettes, pipes
  • Individuals who are exposed to second hand smoke
  • Individuals who have been exposed to asbestosis
  • Individuals who have been exposed to radon
  • Individuals who have a history of tuberculosis
  • Individuals who have weight loss with coughing of blood
  • Individuals with a Family history of lung cancer
  • Individuals who have a prolonged cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath
Where is the procedure done?

The procedure is usually done in a hospital or where ever there are radiological facilities.

How is the procedure done?

A CT Lung Scan is completely painless and effortless. On the day of the CT scan, the individual will have no breakfast and arrive at the hospital. The individual will be asked to change into a gown and an intravenous will be started. The individual is then asked to lie down on a flat bed which moves into the CT scan tunnel. Through the IV is administered a dye to help improve the quality of the images. Once the machine is ready, the patient is slowly moved into the tunnel and the images are obtained. At this point the individual is asked to hold his/her breath. The entire procedure takes a few seconds. After the procedure the IV is removed and the patient can change back to his normal clothes. Discharge is usually done after the procedure.

How long will my appointment take?

The total time for the CT scan takes only about 10-15 minutes in total. The actual scan takes about 20-30 seconds. During the time that you are being scanned, you will be asked to hold your breath for about 20 seconds. This prevents any motion artifacts from breathing. The images are printed out and read by the radiologist.

Are there any side effects from a CT SCAN?

The major side effect is from the injected dye. Some patients may have allergy to the dye and may require premedications to prevent any reaction. Those patients, who have renal dysfunction, should discuss with their physicians whether it is safe for them to get the dye. The dye can be injurious to the kidney. Some of these patients may require admission to the hospital and be given intravenous fluids or some medications prior to undergoing the CT scan.

Who interprets the scans?

A radiologist with prior training and experience usually interprets the images of the CT scan. If prior appointment has been made, the radiologist will discuss the CT scan results and necessary follow-up that may be required.

What is the evidence that lung cancer screening saves lives?

Current Research indicates that annual CT screening improves the chances of cancer detection with a significant increase in survival. Chest x rays done at the same time failed to reveal the majority of early lung cancer that were detected by the CT scan. All studies indicate that the earlier the cancer is detected, the better the chances of the cure and survival.

How much radiation is used in the screening CT scan?

The screening CT scan is a low-dose scan, which means very little radiation is used. The radiation dosage is similar to that of a mammogram.

Will this CT scan show other lung abnormalities besides cancer?

Yes. The CT scan can show any abnormalities of the chest wall, ribs, the inside lining of the chest, and diaphragm. In addition it may reveal the presence of any other lung disease such as lung fibrosis, pleural effusion, scars, pneumonia, bronchiectasis or emphysema.

Will other parts of my body be evaluated on the low-dose chest CT?

A limited evaluation of the heart and abdomen will be done. The radiologists are able to see heart size and is surroundings. A partial view of the abdomen will reveal any abnormalities in the liver, kidney and adrenal glands.

What happens if the Lung CT scan is abnormal?

Once an abnormality is detected, it will be discussed with you and your physician and you may require additional tests, biopsy or observation. Any further testing is usually done at a later time.

How much does the screening cost?

The average cost of a lung scan is $500. Some institutions may provide free CT scans for those enrolled in a funded research study. If one is symptomatic, referred by the physician and if there is a strong suspicion of a lesion in the chest, the CT scan may be covered by the insurance. Prior to the procedure it is best to determine the rules of coverage for screening CT scan.



By Staff
Updated: May 4, 2007

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