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Low-dose CT Lung Cancer Screening

The University of Tennessee Medical Center is now offering lung cancer screenings with the use of a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan. The test is only being recommended for those at ‘high risk’ for lung cancer.

Ideal candidates for this screening are as follows:

  • Adults age 55 - 74
  • Current heavy smokers with a smoking history of 30 pack years (one pack/day for 30 years, two packs/day for 15 years, etc.) and who are over the age of 55.
  • Former heavy smokers who have quit within the previous 15 years
  • No previous diagnosis of  lung cancer / pulmonary nodules
  • No symptoms for lung cancer (i.e. shortness of breath, unusual or persistent chest/back pain, coughing up blood)
  • Have not undergone a chest CT within 18 months

If you have previously been diagnosed with lung cancer, pulmonary nodules or have symptoms of lung cancer (i.e. shortness of breath, usual or persistent chest/back pain, coughing up blood) please see your physician. The lung cancer screening program offered at The University of Tennessee Medical Center has been modeled after the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) and based on the current National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines. The results of the NLST have proven the benefit of lung cancer screening in decreasing mortality for those at high risk for lung cancer.

“Screening with a low-does CT is the first hope we've had in catching lung cancer early enough to improve survival rates. Having this screening now available in Knoxville, at the UT Medical Center, provides a great service to our community.” states Thomas Gaines, M.D., F.A.C.S, Chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery.

What is a low-dose CT scan?

Computed tomography (CT) of the chest takes high-resolution pictures of the lungs, which allows physicians to detect any abnormal spots/nodules on the lungs.  Many of these spots are too small to see on a standard x-ray.  Low-dose means that this screening test uses much less than the regular dose of radiation for a typical CT scan, usually between one-fifthand one-half less radiation.

The benefits of low dose CT include possibly picking up a cancer very early in the process, therefore saving lives.  Risks of screening may include having unnecessary medical tests, biopsies, and other procedures as a result of a nodule found at the time of screening that eventually turns out to be noncancerous.

The NLST recommends screening candidates to receive a series of three screenings at 1-year intervals. Only individuals with negative test results are recommended to receive the year 2 and year 3 screening. Those with abnormal findings will be referred to the Chest Service at The University of Tennessee Medical Center for further follow-up.

To Schedule:

To schedule a lung cancer screening CT appointment, call Healthcare Coordination at 865.305.6970. Testing is available on the campus of the University of Tennessee Medical Center and at the OP Diagnostic Center located in Turkey Creek. An order from your physician is not required.

Per the NLST recommendation, candidates with negative test results should receive a series of three screenings at 1-year intervals.

Cost:

Lung cancer screenings are currently not covered by Medicare, Tenncare or other insurances. The screening CT is available as a cash only service. The cost per scan is $199 payable at the time of service.

Results:

All persons screened will receive a letter in the mail stating the results of the low dose CT scan.  Those requiring follow-up will also receive a phone call from a nurse practitioner in the medical center's Chest Service.

Results from the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST):

There were 33 study sites in the United States that participated in the National Lung Screening Trial. This trial enrolled more than 53,000 high risk persons. The study compared standard chest x-ray with low-dose CT in detecting lung cancer.  Mortality was shown to be 7 percent lower in the group that received the low-dose CT scans. Therefore, CT scans of the chest were shown to be a safe and effective method for screening people at risk.

For more information about the NSLT trial please visit the National Cancer Institute.

New Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines released by the NCCN:

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) is an alliance of 21 of the world's leading cancer centers, working together to develop treatment guidelines for most cancers, and dedicated to research that improves the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of cancer care. The NCCN has tools available to clinicians to help guide decision-making in the management of cancer.  In 2011, the NCCN developed lung cancer screening guidelines based on the currently available evidence based research.

For more information on lung cancer screening guidelines, visit the NCCN online.