Lung Cancer Screening Program

Lung cancer is difficult to treat successfully because it's extremely difficult to diagnose. 

Often lung cancer isn't caught until your doctor orders a chest X-ray to evaluate symptoms that might be bronchitis or pneumonia. But by the time a mass or nodule is large enough to show up on an X-ray, your lung cancer is likely past the early, easily-curable stage.

New option for early diagnosis of lung cancer

A new lung cancer screening program available at EvergreenHealth is helping catch lung cancer at its earliest stage, and it's increasing survival rates far beyond other detection methods. 

The new screening protocol is a simple low-dose CT scan, once a year, for people considered at a higher risk for lung cancer. It's covered by Medicare and by many private health insurance plans.

You can qualify for the test if:

  • you are a current smoker
  • you are a former smoker who quit less than 15 years ago
  • you are between 55 and 77 years old
  • you have a 30-pack-year history; for example, smoking one pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years
  • you have a referral from your physician

Take this risk assessment if you're wondering whether you should be screened. 

What's next if you qualify for lung cancer screening

The lung cancer screening program is conducted at EvergreenHealth's Pulmonary Care clinic.

Your first appointment will be a joint decision making visit, which is mandated for your insurance and Medicare. You'll be asked about how long you've been smoking, how long since you've quit smoking (if you have) along with any exposures you may have had that would increase your chances for lung cancer.

You'll also hear about the benefits and risks of lung cancer screening:

The benefits: the biggest benefit is catching lung cancer early. The scan itself is non-invasive and painless. It doesn't involve any contrast dye.

The risks: In some cases, the scan may produce false positive results, which may require further testing.

What does the screening entail?

At your first appointment, we'll tell you all about the screening process. It's a basic CT scan, which doesn't require an IV contrast. It's painless.

Your screen is then read by one of our certified chest radiologists, who gives it a grade based on nationally grading criteria. If lung cancer is suspected, you'll be referred on for treatment. Otherwise, you'll come back annually for another scan.

If you're wondering whether the radiation from a CT scan every year poses a danger to you, our experts say the dose of radiation is too small to matter. What matters more, is that it can save your life.

Your scan finds something suspicious – what happens next

Better lung cancer survival rates

The sad fact is that more than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. The five-year survival rate for advanced stage IV lung cancer is only five percent, and often less.

But the five-year survival rate jumps to 90 percent for early-stage lung cancer. That's why early detection is so critical; by finding the disease at its earliest stage, it is more likely to be curable.

More good news – new data from the American Cancer Society shows the number of people who die from lung cancer has dropped the most rapidly of all cancers. Credit goes to earlier detection, and to more people not smoking.  Learn more about EvergreenHealth's successful Smoking Cessation Program