Lung cancer screening

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Your lungs do vital work. With every breath, they help your body take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Lung cancer can strip your body of the ability to breathe efficiently, and unfortunately, signs of lung cancer are often missing—until the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to another part of the body. That means people who have lung cancer might not know it, until the disease is in the advanced stages.

Lung cancer tests—such as the screening we offer at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center—can help. The images from a screening can help your doctor spot small changes in the lungs. Those small changes are easier to treat than advanced lung cancer. Getting a screening could make fighting your cancer easier.

Lung cancer tests we offer

In our lung cancer screening program, we offer a low-dose CT scan read by a board-certified radiologist. The results of your scan are sent to your doctor, and if abnormalities are found, we can refer you for lung cancer treatment at Claxton-Hepburn's Richard E. Winter Cancer Center.

If you're a smoker, we can refer you to a smoking-cessation program. The sooner you kick the habit, the healthier your lungs will be. Working with a counselor, and using nicotine-replacement products as needed, could help you to overcome your nicotine cravings so you can stop smoking and stay smoke-free.

If your scans are clear, we can send you an appointment reminder in one year, so you can come back for a follow-up scan, should you choose to do so. We recommend yearly screening, as it offers you the best level of lung cancer protection.

Eligibility for our cancer tests

Lung cancer is closely tied to a smoking habit. As a result, we restrict our lung cancer screenings to people who have a 30 pack-year smoking history. (A pack year is equivalent to the number of packs you smoke per day, multiplied by the number of years you've smoked.) If you have a 30 pack-year history but you don't smoke now, screening is still a good idea for you.

The test is designed for people ages 55 to 74. If you're older than 74, and you have at least a 30 pack-year history, screening might still be right for you. Our lung cancer screening team can discuss this with you and help you make the right choice.

Some people aren't right for our lung cancer screening program, including people with:

Cost of lung cancer screening

Currently, most insurance carriers do not cover the cost of chest CT screening for lung cancer. We offer this test for $99 (which is close to the cost of one carton of cigarettes), payable at the time of service. The charge includes both the CT scan and the radiology interpretation fees. Free screenings are available to those who meet eligibility requirements, thanks to a grant from the St. Lawrence County Cancer Fund. Contact us for more information.

If the scan identifies an issue that warrants further testing, that work will be performed after obtaining your permission. Most insurance plans will pay for further tests.