That’s the question many smokers may ask themselves from time to time, especially if they’ve been smoking for 20-30 years.
“Often, lung cancer isn’t found until a person develops symptoms of the disease,” said Pulmonologist Greg Ardoin, M.D., FCCP. “Now, we’re able to offer those at highest risk of lung cancer a screening that allows us to detect lung cancer before those symptoms begin, when the cancer is easier to treat.”
The “Rapides Lung Check” is a low-dose CT lung screening. It is recommended for those at high risk of lung cancer, such as: People ages 55-74 who have smoked at least an average of one pack a day for 30 years. (This includes people who still smoke or have quit within the last 15 years.)
People ages 50-74 who currently or in the past have smoked at least an average of one pack a day for 20 years. (They must also have at least one other risk factor for lung cancer – previous cancer, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, family history of lung cancer or exposure to certain substances.)
The test is painless and noninvasive. Studies have shown that early detection lowers the risk of death by 20 percent for those at high risk for lung cancer. However, you must have a physician’s order to get the test.
“Before sending someone for this test, I would take a look at their family history, their risk factors for lung cancer, their current medical condition and their smoking habits,” Ardoin said.
The simple, non-invasive test is now available at Rapides Outpatient Center. The scan itself takes less than 10 seconds.
“A low-dose CT lung screening is one of the easiest screening exams you can have,” Ardoin said. “The exam itself takes less than 10 seconds, though you have to expect additional time for registration and machine prep.
“No medications are given. No needles are used. You can eat before and after the exam. In fact, you do not even need to undress as long as the clothing on your chest doesn’t contain metal.”
The only requirement is that the patient be able to hold their breath for at least six seconds while the chest is being scanned.
To sign up, just ask your primary care physician to go through a quick in-office screening to see if you qualify for the Rapides Lung Check. Then, take your doctor’s order and call Rapides Outpatient Center at 769-7606 to schedule an appointment. Appointments are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. A photo ID is also required. Results are sent to you and your primary care physician.
Since the test is not currently covered by most insurances, patients should be prepared to pay $100 upon registration. Patients can pay with cash, check or credit/debit cards.
The test can offer patients peace of mind or serve as a catalyst for further testing.
“A lot of people are just curious,” Ardoin said. “They may have a little chest pain from time to time and want to make sure it’s not something that needs attention. Or, they may have a strong family history of lung cancer and want to know where they stand. It’s a good way to find out if you need any further testing. And it’s a good way to have some peace of mind.”