A CT scan of the lungs is often ordered when your physician is trying to determine if there is bleeding or fluid in the lungs. It may also be ordered if a tumor is suspected or to determine the size, shape and position of a known tumor.
Why it’s worth your time: Lung cancer is the third most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in the US. However, early detection is now possible with CT technology and it is often covered by insurance. If cancer is detected early, it is very likely your outcome will be better and treatment will be less invasive.
Cancer of the lung and bronchus account for more deaths than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined. Various well understood factors contribute to lung cancer, and they are used as the criteria for insurance coverage of the CT lung screening.
How screening works: The screening is done using a CT, which uses X-ray technology to get detailed images of the body. The newest CT machines – like those Oregon Imaging uses – expose you to very little radiation because they very quickly take a succession of detailed shots that build a clear picture for a radiologist to interpret.
The radiologist will analyze the scan to identify any spots, which may or may not indicate cancer. If a spot(s) is detected, you’ll be asked to return in six months to look for any changes in size. Lung cancer typically develops slowly and this allows for monitoring without the invasiveness of a biopsy. If there has been a change to the spot, your physician will make a recommendation on next steps for monitoring or further study.
What to expect: The imaging is simple and you will not experience discomfort. You will be asked to change into a gown. You will rest on your back on a table that passes through a circular opening in the CT imaging system. It takes just a couple of minutes.
Insurance coverage: Most insurance plans, including Medicare, are in the process of implementing coverage for lung screenings for those who meet the below criteria. For many plans, the benefits provide for full coverage with no patient financial responsibility. Some plans require the lung screenings to be prior authorized for benefits to apply. Please contact your health plan for the specific information about your lung screening benefits.
The criteria: Most insurance providers are using this criteria to determine coverage:
- 55-74 years of age.
- Current smoker who smoked on average at least one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years or more.
- Former smoker who quit less than 15 years ago, after a significant smoking history.
- Currently without symptoms of lung cancer.
Next steps: Check with your provider to determine whether your screening is covered and if you need pre-authorization. Then call us to schedule an appointment, or request an appointment online.