Recently we replaced our CT scanners in our outpatient Medical Imaging Center and within the hospital with low-dose 64-slice scanners. These new devices mean that patients’ exposure can be up to 40% less radiation per scan—which may not mean much for the person who has one or two scans over the course of a lifetime, but could have a major impact on the health of someone who has a disease or disorder that requires several scans, sometimes even a few per year. Perhaps the most exciting thing about low dose scanning is that it makes lung cancer screening a reality at our hospital. The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial, conducted by the National Cancer Institute, found that among nearly 54,000 current and heavy smokers between the ages of 55 and 77, there were 20% fewer deaths among participants who were screened with low-dose CT (as compared to those who were screened with chest x-ray). CT screening allowed physicians to find cancers earlier, and treat them at an earlier stage—decreasing mortality significantly for high-risk patients who underwent scanning. Read more about low-dose scanning in the New England Journal of Medicine article detailing the team’s results.
Because the results of the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial are so new, most insurance companies still do not cover lung cancer screening. People who are at high-risk for lung cancer are encouraged to take their health into their own hands. Those who want to learn more should contact their physician or Jasmin Avery, NP, the program coordinator for Reston’s Northern Virginia Center for Thoracic and Esophageal Disorders. She can be reached at 703-639-9503.