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The Lung Cancer Screening Program:

For those at high-risk for lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Five-year survival rates for lung cancer are only about 15%, in part because most patients already have advanced lung cancer by the time the diagnosis is made.

Early detection of lung cancer is an important opportunity for decreasing mortality. Recent studies support using low-dose CT scans of the chest to screen select patients who are at high risk for lung cancer. The goal of screening is to detect cancer at an early stage when treatment is more successful. This is usually before it has caused any symptoms.

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) began in 2002 and the results were published in 2011. The results of that study showed there were 20% fewer lung cancer related deaths in high risk patients screened with CT compared to patients screened with traditional chest X-rays.

At OHH, our lung cancer screening program is based on the NLST and the guidelines published by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). We have assembled a multidisciplinary team consisting of pulmonologists, radiologists, thoracic surgeons and clinicians to oversee your care.

Who is High Risk for Lung Cancer?

Appropriate candidates for the lung cancer screening are individuals who meet the criteria below:

If, you are:

A current or former smoker age 55 - 74 with a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years. (this means 1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.)

Then, you are in the group at highest risk for lung cancer and screening for lung cancer is recommended for you.

If, you are:

A current or former smoker age 50 - 74 with a smoking history of at least 20 pack-years. (this means 1 pack a day for 20 years, 2 packs a day for 10 years, etc.) and an additional risk factor of any of the following:

  • A personal or family history of cancer
  • Exposure to: radon, silica, cadmium, asbestos, arsenic, beryllium, chromium, diesel fumes, nickel
  • Diagnosed with COPD, emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis

Then, you are in a group of high risk for lung cancer and screening for lung cancer is recommended for you.

A Multidisciplinary Approach

The National Lung Cancer screening guidelines recommend that lung screening programs consist of multidisciplinary teams who are skilled in evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of abnormal lung nodules. Following these guidelines Oklahoma Heart Hospital has created an integrated team of specialists who collectively provide diagnoses and treatment plans that are customized for each patient.

The program at Oklahoma Heart Hospital Campus is based on the research-based guidelines from the following organizations:

  • National Lung Screening Trial
  • American Lung Association
  • American College of Chest Physicians
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Association of Thoracic Surgery

Follow-up Treatment Options:

All patients with a positive scan will receive a fast-track referral to see one of our lung specialists that will include additional testing. Treatment options may include:

  • Monitoring nodule for future growth
  • Biopsy of suspicious nodules
  • Surgery to remove nodules

After testing, if you have additional questions about your results, program directors are available to answer any questions and can be reached by calling the location where you received your scan.

North Campus Program Director

Mary Bass, NP

South Campus Program Director

Wendy Lawson, MPH, RRT, AE-C

Is a Lung Scan Program Right for You?

Screening for lung cancer means testing for cancer before there are any symptoms. The results of the NLST have proven that there is a significant advantage in using low dose CT scans over X-rays to screen for lung cancer in high risk adults. CT scans however are not recommended for everyone and they have risks as well as benefits. Below are some common questions and answers about participating in a Lung Cancer Screening Program that uses CT scans. For more information about whether the Lung Cancer Screening Program is right for you feel free to contact us at: 405-608-3635.

Q. What are the risks of getting a lung cancer screening CT?

A. There is some exposure to radiation and we don’t know what the long term effects will be. The scan is done using special software and low-dose protocols to minimize radiation. It is natural to feel worry and anxiety if a nodule is seen. Most nodules will turn out to be benign (not cancer). To determine this may require further testing involving radiation, biopsies or surgery, all of which may have some risk and/or side effects.

Q. How do I schedule a Lung Cancer Screening CT?

A. To schedule your CT scan, please call 405-608-3635. You will be asked a few basic questions to help determine if the scan is appropriate for you. The scan is not covered by most insurance. To make this service accessible to as many patients as possible, the CT scan is offered at a discounted self-pay price which includes interpretation by a radiologist.

Q. What can I expect the day of my scan?

A. Wear comfortable street clothing. Arrive about 15 – 20 minutes before your scheduled time. You will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire regarding your history and risk factors. The scan itself will only take a few minutes

Q. What can I expect after my scan?

A. You will receive a phone call from a clinician and /or a letter with the results of your scan. At that time you will be notified of the need for follow-up with a physician and/or for any further testing. We will assist you with those appointments. Again, it is natural to feel anxious if a nodule is found. Keep in mind that the majority of findings turn out to be benign (not cancer) and that the goal of the scan is to catch the cancer in its early stage when it is most successfully treated.

Q. What if I have a lung nodule?

A. Lung nodules are common and most of them are benign (not cancer). More than 50% of patients will have a lung nodule found on CT and more than 97% of these nodules will not be cancer. Some patients will need one or more follow–up scans for a period of 1 to 2 years to observe suspicious nodules and to ensure that they are not growing. Patients with a lung nodule that is suspicious for cancer will be referred to a specialist in pulmonary medicine or thoracic surgery to further evaluate the nodule. The next step depends on multiple factors and may include PET scanning, CT guided biopsy, bronchoscopy, or surgery.

Q. If I am concerned about lung cancer, what else can I do?

A. The most important actions a person could take to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking now or to never smoke to begin with. Tobacco smoking is a major risk factor in the development of lung cancer and it accounts for 85% of all lung cancer deaths. Learning more about your lungs and lung cancer can help you feel more in control of your health.

Lung Cancer Screening

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