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Low Dose CT for High Risk Smokers Saves Lives

Results of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, recently confirmed that screening individuals at high risk for lung cancer with an annual Low-Dose CT (LDCT) scan of the Chest saves lives! 

The randomized, controlled trial found the following:

  • 1 in 100 high-risk persons enrolled in the study were found to have lung cancer on the first screening exam.
  • One life was saved for every 320 high-risk persons screened with LDCT over two years, resulting in a 20% lung cancer-specific mortality benefit versus annual chest x-ray. 

    As a result of the NLST findings, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued a draft “Grade B” recommendation in favor of annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose CT in high risk individuals.  The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has issued guidelines for providers and patients.  A high-risk individual is defined as follows:

    • Age 55-74 years, and
    • 30-pack year smoking history*, and
    • Current or former (quit within past 15 years) smoker, and
    • No signs or symptoms of lung cancer or other serious medical conditions**
      *Pack-years = packs per day x number of years smoking
      **No cough, hemoptysis, shortness of breath, respiratory illness, chest pain, prior or current history of cancer.

    At this time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) does NOT reimburse for this exam.  Private insurers MAY cover the exam if the above criteria is established, but prior authorization may be required.

    A patient’s decision to undergo screening is best made jointly with their primary care physician (PCP).  As such, all patients will be required to obtain an order for lung screening from their PCP, written as follows:  “CT Scan of the Chest without contrast for Lung CA Screening” and should be faxed to North Valley Advanced Imaging at (530) 332-2962.  After screening is complete, the ordering physician will receive a copy of the CT report, including any recommendations for follow-up.  Recommendations will follow current National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines.

    Visit for additional information or call North Valley Advanced Imaging at (530) 894-6200. 

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