A low-dose CT lung screen uses small amounts of radiation to produce images of lung tissue. A screening study tests for presence of a disease in high-risk patients before symptoms. Lung screenings are most commonly used to detect lung cancer. This study uses computed tomography (CT) technology to produce high-quality images for analysis.

What are the benefits of CT lung screening?
Computed tomography (CT) of the chest provides high-resolution pictures of the lungs, allowing detection of abnormal spots called “nodules” within the lungs. These nodules are usually too small to be seen on a chest x-ray. Early detection of these nodules is important for early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer and other lung diseases.

Who should have a low-dose CT lung screen?
Current guidelines suggest two high-risk groups receive lung screenings. If you fall into one of the following groups, you should have a low-dose CT lung screen.

  • People 55 years old and older who have smoked for 30 or more “pack years.”
  • People 50 years old and older who have smoked for 20 or more “pack years” and have at least one or more risk factors other than second-hand smoke.

Recent research shows that patients with a high risk for lung cancer who undergo a yearly low-dose CT are diagnosed earlier, with smaller tumors. For example, recent studies show 60- 80% of lung cancers are diagnosed in Stage IA—the earliest cancer stage. But, if no screening test is performed, only 15% of lung cancer patients are diagnosed at Stage IA and begin early treatment. Screening is not recommended for high-risk people with poor health, who if diagnosed with cancer would not be able to receive curative treatment. However, for those who qualify, Optimal Imaging offers low-dose CT lung screening for $110. To schedule a lung screening, find a location near you.

What are pack years?
Pack years can be calculated by following this prompt: Number of packs per day x years of smoking = pack years. For example, 1.5 pack a day x 30 years = 45 pack years.

How to prepare for a lung screening
Typically, no special preparation is needed for a low-dose CT lung scan. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for your study, including:

  • Bring your insurance card and photo identification
  • On the day of your exam, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
  • Avoid clothing with metal zippers, hair pins, jewelry and snaps
  • Drink plenty of clear fluids, but do not eat solid food for 3 hours before the examination
  • Patients scheduled for abdominal and/or pelvic studies should arrive 30 minutes early to drink oral contrast material used to better visualize the stomach and intestines
  • Take your usual medications
  • Always inform your technologist or doctor if you are pregnant or could be pregnant

What to expect during a CT
A low-dose CT lung examination usually takes about five to ten minutes. The technologist will ask you to lay on the CT table and help position you based on your study. You will be alone in the room during your scan; however, the technologist can see, hear and speak with you at all times.

When your examination is over, you may resume your normal daily activities unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. One of our board-certified radiologists will review the images and send a report to your doctor.

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