Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, usually because it tends to not be discovered until it has reached an advanced stage. The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute (TCI) in collaboration with the MemorialCare Imaging Center at Long Beach Memorial has launched a valuable new service for the community – an Early Lung Cancer Detection program. This program has been created to help answer the need for a screening program of lung cancer in high-risk individuals with the use of a low dose computed tomography (CT) scanner.

In order to combat lung cancer being the leading cause of cancer death, the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial was conducted – a randomized trial, to determine whether screening with low-dose computed tomography (CT), as compared with chest radiography, would reduce mortality from lung cancer among high-risk persons. More than 50,000 persons at high risk for lung cancer at 33 U.S. medical centers were randomly assigned to undergo annual screenings with either low-dose CT or chest radiography. The research findings from the trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and revealed several interesting findings regarding the efficacy of low dose CT scanning of the chest as a screening tool for lung cancer. The authors concluded that screening with the use of low-dose CT reduces mortality from lung cancer by 20 percent in patients who are high-risk for lung cancer. This method of screening also is recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

Due to the importance of these findings, Long Beach Memorial now offers a low-dose, non-contrast CT scan to screen high-risk patients for lung cancer. By using this approach, physicians anticipate to find more lung cancer cases at an earlier stage of growth and improve survival rates. Another benefit to low-dose radiation imaging is that the amount of radiation a person would receive is significantly reduced as compared to that of a standard-dose diagnostic CT.

“By offering a low-dose CT scan lung cancer screening to high-risk individuals, Long Beach Memorial is providing an essential and important service to our community,” says Thomas Asciuto, M.D., medical director, Thoracic Oncology, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Memorial. “Five-year survival rates for early stage 1 lung cancer is 70 percent, but only 15 percent of lung cancer patients are discovered at this early stage. Most patient with advanced stages have five year survival rates of five to 15 percent. This screening program will hopefully increase early detection and reduce overall lung cancer mortality by 20 percent.”

Patients should be 50 years or older with a 20 year, pack-a-day history of smoking and be asymptomatic. The scan is done in approximately 20 to 30 seconds and once complete, a radiologist will interpret the report. Whether positive or negative, patients and their primary care physician will be notified of the results. If a report comes back positive with signs of early lung cancer, a multi-disciplinary team from the Thoracic Cancer Program at TCI will determine a comprehensive treatment plan. The lung cancer screening CT scan is by physician referral only and costs $295, since this procedure isn’t yet covered by medical insurance. Schedule an appointment or call the Imaging Center at (562) 661-1001.