A lung cancer screening test now available at Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg uses low-dose helical computed tomography (CT) to scan patients with a history of heavy smoking.
The test and patient screening criteria are based on the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST),a randomized, multi-center research study that demonstrated the effectiveness of low-dose CT scans in detecting lung cancer, said Stacy Moulton, MD, board-certified diagnostic radiologist with Radiologic Associates of Fredericksburg (RAF). RAF radiologists interpret test results at Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg, a partnership of RAF and Mary Washington Healthcare.
“Medical imaging tests, such as X-rays, have long been evaluated to screen for lung cancer,” Dr. Moulton explained. “But until now, the cost versus benefit of these screenings has been inconclusive. The NLST demonstrates a clear benefit. In fact, researchers reported their preliminary findings early, in November 2010, because the data was so conclusive.”
The NLST study showed 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among trial participants screened with low-dose helical CT compared to those who were screened with chest X-rays. Final results were published August 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The lung screening test at Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg is offered to patients meeting the following NLST criteria:
- 55–75 years old
- No cancer diagnosis in past five years except basal cell skin cancer
- At least a 30-pack-year smoking history, calculated by multiplying packs per day by years of smoking. For example, a patient who smoked one pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years, would qualify.
Patients with a history of heavy smoking and who do not fit the criteria will be referred to their primary care physicians.
Timely Testing and Results
Barry Nielsen, clinical director of Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg, said the imaging centers’ Mary Washington Hospital campus location began offering the lung screening tests in September. Patients or their physicians can contact Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg directly to schedule a scan.
Carla Brooks-Ford, CT screening coordinator for the centers, completes paperwork with patients when they arrive for the procedure. The painless, non-invasive study takes less than 20 seconds, with additional time required for study interpretation.
After the test, the patient waits in the center’s waiting room while a radiologist reviews findings, then sits down with the radiologist to review results. Should findings be significant, a radiologist will contact the patient’s primary care physician directly within a day.
Dr. Moulton added, “If we have detected a pulmonary nodule, depending on the size and morphology, the patient may just need to follow up at a later date. If the nodule’s size and features warrant more concern, we may recommend a biopsy and other steps.”
The lung cancer screening test currently is a $325 expense paid up front by the patient. Patients may check with their insurer afterward to determine eligibility for reimbursement, but Medicare and most insurers do not presently cover the test, Nielsen said.
For more information about this story contact Stacy Moulton, MD, at email@example.com, leave a message for him at (540) 361- 1000, or contact Barry Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 741-3402.
Pictured above is Dr. Stacy Moulton, diagnostic radiologist with RAF