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Five Things to Know About a Lung Cancer Screening

December 08, 2017

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1. What is a low-dose CT scan?

A low-dose CT scan is a type of computed tomography (CT) or diagnostic imaging test that utilizes less radiation than conventional CT scans. The scan is important because it allows physicians to identify lung cancer early or nodules with abnormal growth. 

2. Who should get screened?

Screening is important for people who are considered high risk and meet the following criteria endorsed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF):

  • Have a history of heavy smoking – 30-pack year (for example, one pack of cigarettes for 30 years or two packs for 15 years)
  • Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years
  • Are between 55 and 80 years old

Additional considerations include a family history of lung cancer, chemical exposures such as asbestos or radon and COPD/pulmonary fibrosis. Check out this infographic to see if you should get screened. Insurance covers the lung screening scan as a preventive service for those meeting the above criteria.

3. What can I do if I’m not eligible for lung cancer screening under the USPSTF guidelines?

In some cases, an individual may still be considered at high risk for developing lung cancer if they meet the following requirements determined by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Those include: 

  • Patients 50 years of age or older
  • Current or former smokers with a 20-pack per pack-year history
  • One additional risk factor including:
    * Family history of lung cancer
    * Chemical exposures such as asbestos or radon
    * COPD/pulmonary fibrosis 

For these high-risk individuals, insurance will not reimburse for the preventive service at this time but there may be a self-pay option to obtain the screening.  The self-pay rate is $150.  Moffitt also offers a voucher program for all candidates who qualify as uninsured or under-insured.

If a patient is not eligible for the lung cancer screening program, they may speak with their primary physician to express their concerns and to request a CT scan.  A physician may write a script for a CT scan "without contrast." Contrast refers to a substance taken by mouth or injected intravenously that allows an organ or tissue to be seen more clearly.  Unfortunately, only patients who meet the eligibility requirements are able to schedule low-dose lung screening scans. 

If you don’t qualify for a lung screening scan, Moffitt is committed to helping you quit smoking. It’s never too late. Our Tobacco Treatment program provides patients with individualized plans and resources to help them quit smoking. Our program also offers free Tools to Quit classes. 

4. What role does my pulmonologist or primary care doctor play in my care?

If the patient has a pulmonologist outside of Moffitt, the patients can request their CT images and follow-up tests with them on their own. 

A pulmonologist at Moffitt will contact a patient if the CT scan comes back positive. At that time, the physician may decide to follow-up with either a CT thorax "without contrast" or a CT "with contrast," if determined necessary. 

5. Does my insurance cover lung cancer screening?

Yes. Patients need to be eligible in order for insurance to cover the procedure. For Medicare recipients, they need to complete a "shared decision visit" the day of/prior to their CT scan in order for Medicare to cover the costs. Shared decision visits only need to be completed once, prior to their baseline CT scan. If a shared decision visit is not completed, Medicare will not cover the procedure.

Learn more about Moffitt’s Lung Cancer Screening and Surveillance Program.