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Lung Cancer Screening

Low-dose Computed Tomography Lung Cancer Screening Program at UMass

Lung cancer is the number-one cancer killer in America, taking more lives than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined. Every year, 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer and 160,000 die from it. However, early detection of lung cancer can increase the five-year survival rate for stage 1 lung cancer to nearly 90%.

The LDCT Lung Cancer Screening Program at UMass provides screening to patients who are at risk for developing lung cancer. Through low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) examinations, we can proactively and safely screen patients for this disease.

LDCT lung cancer screening is the first and only cost-effective test proven to detect lung cancer at an early stage, which can result in a better chance of survival for patients. LDCT lung cancer screening at UMass is performed with a low dose of radiation and has minimal risk for the patient. The LDCT examination does not require the use of contrast and the examination is completed within 10 minutes.

UMass is a pioneer in LDCT lung cancer screening and our program is a designated lung cancer screening center accredited by the American College of Radiology. Our program offers a unique clinical service line, including proactive patient management and comprehensive information for referring physicians.

Patients eligible for LDCT lung cancer for screening:

  • Are 55 to 77 years old.
  • Have a 30 "pack year" or greater history. (Pack years are calculated using the number of years you smoked and the amount of packs of cigarettes smoked each day. For instance: 1 pack/day for 30 years is 30 pack years; 2 packs/day for 15 years is 30 pack years.)
  • Are current or former smokers who have quit in the past 15 years.
  • Have no current symptoms of lung cancer such as coughing up blood or sudden weight loss.

Patient FAQs

What Is The Goal Of LDCT Lung Cancer Screening?

The goal is to save lives. Without LDCT lung screening, lung cancer is usually not found until a person develops symptoms, at which point the cancer may already be far advanced and much harder to treat.

Who Should Get an LDCT Lung Cancer Screening Examination?

LDCT lung cancer screening is recommended for individuals aged 55 to 77 years who have smoked at least an average of 1 pack a day for 30 years (30 pack years). This also includes those who still smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years. Note that individuals with symptoms of lung cancer at the time of screening, such as unexplained weight loss or hemoptysis, are not eligible.

Certain symptoms can be suggestive of lung conditions that should be evaluated and treated, if necessary, by a healthcare provider. These symptoms include fever, chest pain, a new or changing cough, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, or unexplained weight loss. Having any of these symptoms can affect the results of lung cancer screening and may actually delay potential treatment.

Do I Need To Have An LDCT Lung Cancer Screening Examination Every Year?

Yes. If you still fit the criteria for eligibility, an LDCT lung cancer screening examination is recommended every year, up to the age of 77.

If the patient is eligible, a LDCT lung cancer screening examination is recommended every year, up to the age of 77. Also, in case of suspicious findings, additional diagnostic tests, such as repeat CT examinations, PET-CT, or biopsies might be recommended. These recommendations are based on a discussion within a multidisciplinary expert group that meets every second week. Referring physicians have a standing invitation to these meetings

How Effective Is LDCT Lung Cancer Screening At Preventing Death From Lung Cancer?

Studies have shown that LDCT lung cancer screening can lower the risk of death from lung cancer by 20% or more in people who are at high risk.

How Is The Exam Performed?

The LDCT examination itself takes less than 10 seconds, and overall you should be done within 10 minutes. No medications are given, and no needles are used. You can eat and drink before and after the exam. You do not need to change your clothes as long as the clothes on your chest do not contain metal. You must be able to hold your breath for approximately 5 seconds while the CT examination is being performed.

Where Can I Get a LDCT Lung Cancer Screening?

We currently offer the LDCT lung cancer screening at the following locations:

UMass Memorial Medical Center, Worcester, MA

UMass Memorial Health Alliance, Clinton and Leominster, MA

UMass Memorial -Marlborough Hospital, Marlborough, MA

When Will I Get The Results Of The Examination?

You will receive the results of the examination within 1 week after the LDCT. The report will be structured and include precise and standardized management recommendations for all relevant pulmonary and non-pulmonary findings.

Will My Insurance Cover The Screening?

LDCT screenings are covered by insurance. UMMHC will work with you to determine the full extent of your coverage.

Can I Continue To Smoke As Long I Get Screened Every Year?

Plain and simple, quitting smoking is the only way to prevent further damage to your body. Screening is not an alternative to smoking cessation.

What Are The Risks To LDCT Lung Cancer Screening?

There are several risks and limitations of LDCT lung cancer screening. These potential risks include:

Radiation exposure: By using special techniques, the amount of radiation in LDCT lung cancer screening is small, averaging the amount of radiation a person would receive from living in the United States for 4 months.

False positive test result and additional testing: LDCT lung cancer screening can show a “false positive” test result. The patient may need to have more tests, which will be performed only with permission of the patient and the referring physician. If the patient needs a procedure, such as a biopsy, it can have potential side effects.

Findings not related to lung cancer: The LDCT lung cancer screening exam also captures images of body regions close to the lungs such as the heart and the upper abdomen. In a small percentage of cases, the CT examination will also detect an “incidental finding.” This finding may not be serious; however, it may need to be examined further. If applicable, the report of the examination will include precise recommendations on how these findings should be worked-up.

How do I enroll patients into the program and how do I order a CT lung cancer screening study?

Enrolling into our CT lung cancer screening program requires a conversation with your primary care taker. In this so-called “shared decision making” conversation, he/she will discuss with you the benefits and risks of enrolling into our program. If you decide to enroll, your primary caregiver will then order your baseline screening examination and you will be notified by the Radiology department of the date your examination is scheduled. From that point on, our patient navigators will pro-actively navigate you through the program. If you have any questions regarding our program, please contact:

Karen L. Polinski, RN, MEd, OCN (UMass Memorial Medical Center)
karen.polinski@umassmemorial.org
Office: 774-441-7968

Kara Longone (UMass Memorial-Marlborough Hospital)
kara.longone@umassmemorial.org
Office: 508-486-5504

Janet K. Champa, RN, BSN, OCN (UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital)
jchampa@healthalliance.com
Office: 978-466-2720

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