The opening of the Mercy Lung Evaluation Clinic is great news for patients at high risk for lung cancer. Each year more than 172,000 people in this country are diagnosed with lung cancer. Unfortunately, more than 160,000 will die because in most cases, overt symptoms do not appear until the lung cancer is too advanced to treat.
However, with early detection, intervention can occur when the cancer is still curable and localized, significantly improving chances of survival. Learn more about cancer screening at Dignity Health.
Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) released guidelines reaffirming the benefits of lung screening. The NCCN recommends lung cancer screening if you meet all of the following criteria:
- Age: 50 to 74 with no signs of symptoms of lung cancer
- Smoking history: Active or former smoker with a 30 pack year history (A "pack year" is the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes per day, per year. One pack per day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years would both be 30 pack years.)
- Active smoker: If you are an active smoker, we strongly urge you to enter a smoking cessation program
- Former smoker: If you are a former smoker, you must have quit within the past 15 years.
Lung Cancer Evaluation: What to Expect
A physician at the Mercy Lung Evaluation Clinic will evaluate you and may refer you for a computed tomography (CT) lung screening exam. If your insurance does not cover the price of the scan but you meet all the criteria above, you may still receive a scan by paying out-of-pocket.
A CT scan is brief and painless. During the scan:
- We position you on the CT table.
- You need to hold your breath for about eight to 15 seconds.
- The scan takes less than a minute.
- There is no injection of intravenous (IV) contrast involved.
CT Lung Scan: Low Risk
Our state-of-the-art spiral CT equipment produces a low dose of X-rays with negligible adverse effects. The risks are not much different from those you encounter in everyday life, such as driving or flying in an airplane.
CT Lung Scan: Results
An initial positive result does not necessarily mean that you have lung cancer. Frequently, nodules your doctor may have detected on the screening test may turn out to be benign (noncancerous).
If your exam detects a nodule or nodules that raise concern, we will:
- Recommend a second type of diagnostic test.
- Advise you to make an appointment with a lung specialist.
- Recommend that you return for follow-up scans in six-month or yearly intervals, for up to two years, to ensure the detected nodule does not enlarge.
If the nodules are large, you may require immediate additional diagnostic tests and procedures.
Mercy Lung Evaluation Clinic: Our Team
You can feel confident that our team of board certified medical oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists and cancer specialists work closely together to enhance effectiveness in analyzing and treating even the most complex cases. We use advanced surgical techniques, including video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), to maximize outcomes and minimize pain and recovery time.
To schedule an appointment or referral with the Mercy Lung Evaluation Clinic, please call (877) 664-7763.