Heavy and long-term smokers, current smokers, or people with a family history of lung cancer now have lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) available at Prescott Medical Imaging (PMI), Prescott Valley Medical Imaging (PVMI) and Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) East in Prescott Valley.
Lung cancer often has no symptoms. Because of this, it can spread outside of the lungs and develop into another form of cancer before it is detected. By then, the cancer may be advanced, which can affect treatment outcomes for the patient.
“It’s really important to get screened even if you don’t have symptoms,” said Mary Sterling, Director of Imaging Services for YRMC. “The benefit of early detection is finding a cancer before it has a chance to spread. The earlier it is detected, the more likely it is treatable.”
LDCT is part Lung Cancer Screening and Care, launched recently by YRMC. To be eligible for the Medicare-sponsored screening, you must be free of cancer symptoms:
- between the ages of 55-75;
- currently smoking;
- a past smoker who quit less than 15 years ago; or
- a heavy smoker averaging one pack per day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years.
People are encouraged to talk with their primary care providers to determine if they are eligible for the screening program.
According to Sterling, “The provider is going to discuss how much they’ve smoked, find out if they have any symptoms, and talk about smoking cessation if they are still smoking.”
YRMC’s Lung Cancer Screening and Care uses a team approach that draws on the skills of primary care providers, pulmonologists, procedural pulmonologists, radiologists and a cardiothoracic surgeon. It also includes a patient navigator whose job it is to serve as a contact for patients, directing them to the appropriate provider when specific care is required.
“Our patient navigator will assist patients by answering questions related to eligibility for the program or determine if they can have the test utilizing their current insurance plan,” Sterling said. “The navigator can also assist patients who would like to have the exam and may use a self-pay option we will offer at a reasonable cost.”
The program is not a one-time screening test. Patients who do not have any signs of lung cancer the first time they are screened will be asked to do follow up testing annually.
“When people enroll in this Medicare program, it is a program that they do screening for a period of time to allow for routine screening and early detection,” said Sterling.
Lung Cancer Screening and Care at YRMC takes a comprehensive, team approach to care. For example, if a patient’s LDCT findings are suspicious, a six-month follow-up scan may be scheduled. A biopsy also may also be recommended, in which case the patient would be referred to a procedural pulmonologist or a radiologist, depending on the location of the lung mass. Should the patient need surgery, the Lung Cancer Screening and Care team also includes a cardiothoracic surgeon.
For more information about LDCT, please contact your primary care provider, pulmonologist, or the Lung Cancer Screening and Care patient navigator at (928) 771-5454.