Lung Cancer Screening

A recent study by the National Cancer Institute, called the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), compared CT scans with chest x-ray to screen for lung cancer in patients aged 55-74 and smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years. The CT scans were found to reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer by 20%. Since those results were published, a task force formed by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) announced recommendations that former smokers between the ages of 55-79 should get an annual low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan to screen for lung cancer. The links below provide more information about the NLST and the AATS recommendations.

Based on the results of the NLST the Department of Radiology created a unique program to offer screening chest CT scans to eligible patients. If you are a current or former long-term smoker over the age of 50, ask your doctor about whether you should receive the scan. Eligible patients can access the scans only with a doctor’s referral.

Accessing the Program

The scans will be performed at Coolidge Corner Imaging, the BWH Department of Radiology’s community location in Brookline, MA (free parking is available). It takes less than 15 minutes to complete the scan, including prep time.  Radiologists from the Division of Thoracic Radiology will interpret the images. All images and reports will be returned to your referring physician so that you can discuss options for follow-up care together.

About the Screening Chest CT Scan

The screening chest CT scan is a quick procedure. It takes about 15 minutes to complete, and that includes prep time.

The scans use radiation to produce the images and too much radiation is known to put patients at risk for developing cancer. The screening CT scans use less radiation than standard chest CT scans. The amount used in the screening scans is roughly 25% of the amount used in the standard scans. The standard chest CT uses approximately 7 milliSieverts of radiation and the low dose screening chest CT uses approximately 1.5 milliSieverts. A milliSievert is the unit measurement of radiation dose.

Due to current insurance limitations, patients are responsible for the cost of the scan themselves. The scan costs $350. Negotiations with payers are underway to have the screening CT scans covered by health insurance.

Additional Information

This video presentation by chest radiologist Francine Jacobson, MD, MPH talks about the results of the NLST study and provides additional information about screening chest CT scans.

For more information about the lung cancer screening program, call Coolidge Corner Imaging at 617-383-6585.

FAQ about the lung cancer screening program.