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Martha Jefferson Healthwise: CT Scans for Lung Cancer

August 7, 2013

A new screening could help reduce mortality rates when it comes to lung cancer. Now doctors are encouraging certain people to get a CT scan.

"In general healthcare, we've done a very poor job of effecting lung cancer mortality. The reason for that is that patients don't get identified until they develop symptoms. Usually, when they've developed symptoms their lung cancer has progressed into their later stages," said Dr. Christopher Willms, Thoracic Surgeon.

That's why Dr. Willms and other healthcare providers at Martha Jefferson Hospital are encouraging high risk patients to get a CT scan.

A high risk candidate is smoker between 55 and 74-years-old, who has smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years or even someone who has smoked that much in the past but quit within the last 15 years.

"What we found through several research studies that with screening we can find these tumors at an early stage and decrease patients mortality by about 20 percent. That's a game changer when it comes to cancer survival," said Dr. Willms.

All a patient has to do is have a quick CT scan with minimal radiation. A doctor will be able to look at the image and figure out what to do next if a lung nodule is present. He says a doctor may recommend a follow up screening or some options for removal.

"What we have found and is common in my practice is, I see patients all the time that have gotten a CT scan for something else and on the CT scan an incidental cancer will be found. So, that even proves more to me that the screening program will be very good," said Dr. Willms.

Dr. Willms adds that taking just a few minutes to get a CT scan could help add years to your life.

Healthcare providers say the screening likely won't be covered by insurance and will cost $250.

If you would like to learn more about the screening, or make an appointment, call our navigator at (434) 654-4483. If you do not meet the screening guidelines, but would still like to be screened, it is best to talk with your physician about your options.

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