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Lung Screening

Photo of Lung Screening

General Information About Lung Screening

Attention smokers. This pain-free Low-Dose CT scan of the chest takes less than 10 seconds. Using a sophisticated low radiation multi-detector CT scanner, the procedure can detect lung abnormalities or nodules that would not be visible on a standard chest x-ray that might indicate early-stage lung cancer. Special protocols are used in the screening process. And early lung cancer detection can improve treatment outcomes.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends an annual Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening for current or former smokers between the ages of 55 - 80 years who have a 30 “pack-year”* history. (Packs Per Day X Years Smoked = Pack Years).

Photo of Lung Screening

Questions About Lung Screening


Question: How Do I Schedule a Lung Screening?

Answer: These exams are elective procedures and can be scheduled directly with St. Paul Radiology by calling 651.632.5700. St. Paul Radiology encourages patients to discuss the risks and benefits of these elective procedures with their primary care physician. At your request, a copy of the medical report can be sent to your primary care provider.


Question: Who Should Consider a Preventative Screening Evaluation?

Answer: St. Paul Radiology’s clients are people who are interested in their preventative and wellness. They recognize the value of early detection in the prevention and the treatment of disease. They realize that true patient care begins with themselves, the patient.


Question: Are These Procedures the Same as the “Body Scan Vans” Seen in Other Parts of the Country?

Answer: No. St. Paul Radiology’s studies are performed in a licensed, state-of-the-art permanent facility. At the conclusion of the study, you will have a face to face consultation with a Board Certified Radiologist who will review your examination and the results with you.


Question: Who Will Interpret My Examination?

Answer: All studies are interpreted by Board Certified Radiologists (St. Paul Radiology) with expertise in both body imaging and preventative imaging. St. Paul Radiology takes a multi-disciplinary approach to provide reassurance that appropriate recommendations are made at the conclusion of the exam. These physicians participate in the multi-disciplinary diagnosis and treatment of vascular disease, lung disease, and oncologic disorders. Additionally, with your approval, St. Paul Radiology will provide reports and images to your primary care physician.


Question: What is the Mission of St. Paul Radiology’s Preventative Screening Program?

Answer: The program is designed to provide superior CT screening at state-of-the-art imaging centers for the early detection of coronary artery disease, lung cancer and colon cancer, while remaining committed to educating the consumer about the issues of quality, expertise and competence in the newly emerging field of preventative imaging. At the Preventative Screening Program, preventative imaging is performed in a controlled setting with direct physician supervision. Furthermore, the physicians of this practice are all Board Certified in Diagnostic Radiology. They are respected, active members of the Twin Cities medical community and they are on the medical staff of many Twin Cities hospitals.


Question: What are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer?

Answer:
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Significant exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Significant exposure to asbestos or radon

Question: What is a Low Dose CT Lung Screening Examination?

In general, a screening exam is a study used to detect a disease process before signs or symptoms are present. For example, mammography detects early breast cancer. Colonoscopy detects early colon cancer. A Low Dose CT Lung Screening exam is a sophisticated low radiation exam utilizing a Multi-detector CT scanner to look for early lung cancer. Special protocols are used to screen for early lung cancer.


Question: What Does the Low Dose CT Lung Screening Tell My Physician and Me?

Answer: In many cases, the lung screening will be normal. In other cases, a variety of lung abnormalities might be detected which would otherwise not be detectable on plain chest x-rays. Many of these abnormalities will be benign; that is, they will not be cancer and do not require any treatment or follow-up. Some non-cancerous abnormalities require follow-up testing to establish stability. Early research has shown that approximately 40-50% of people may have a non-cancerous nodule, which requires tracking for stability. This finding will usually require following the nodule for two years. If a suspicious nodule is detected, you will be immediately referred to a lung specialist. It may be necessary for you to undergo further testing to determine if such a suspicious abnormality is cancer. The following chart provides a review of codes assigned, based on lung screening results. These codes are used to assist in patient tracking and follow-up procedures:

St. Paul
Radiology Code
Category Recommendations
1 Negative Smoking cessation, consider repeat screening in 1 year
2 Benign Smoking cessation, consider repeat screening in 1 year
3 Indeterminate (<1cm smooth nodule) Smoking cessation, follow-up diagnostic CT screening of chest in 3 mo., 6 mo., 12 mo., and 24 mo., assuming no change in size. Consider benign if stable for 2 years.
4 Suspicious Pulmonary consultation, consider biopsy for tissue diagnosis. Smoking cessation.
5 Malignant Pulmonary consultation, tissue diagnosis. Smoking cessation.

A low dose CT lung screening does not preclude further diagnostic work-ups should symptoms arise. If you develop symptoms (cough, pain), please see your physician. Not all lung cancers will be detected with low dose CT screening and a negative screen today does not mean that a cancer will not develop in the future. CT lung cancer screening is not a substitute for smoking cessation.


Question: What are the Benefits of a Low Dose CT Lung Screening Examination?

Answer: Low Dose CT Lung Screening of the lungs can greatly improve the detection of small and potentially curable early stage lung cancers; this has been shown in the ELCAP Study (Early Lung Cancer Action Project). Click here to learn more.


Question: Who Should Have the Low Dose CT Lung Screening?

Answer: The CT lung screening is not for everyone. In general it is most appropriate for men and women 50+ with a significant smoking history. It is not for people with known lung cancer. After scheduling this exam a St. Paul Radiology nurse will contact you to ensure the procedure is appropriate for you.


Question: How Do I Prepare for the Low Dose CT Lung Screening Examination?

Answer: There is no specific preparation for the screening. You may eat or drink. Avoid shirts with metal straps or buttons. Women should avoid wearing a bra with under-wire or metal closures. The test and facility have been specifically designed with your comfort in mind. At St. Paul Radiology, a private changing area and private gowns will be available.


Question: Is Low Dose CT Lung Screening Safe?

Answer: Yes. Radiation exposure is minimal. No needles, injections, or sedations are used.


Question: How Do I Receive the Results of My Low Dose CT Lung Screening Examination?

Answer: At St. Paul Radiology rapid results are essential, not only for your peace of mind, but also to begin the effective implementation of our recommendations. After completion of the test, a Board Certified Radiologist will analyze the images. Then you will have a one-to-one consultation with the radiologist who interpreted your exam. At the conclusion of the consultation, you will be provided with a typed report and folder containing recommendations and pertinent images from your study. A letter will also be sent to the physician of your choice, if you so choose. St. Paul Radiology encourages patients to review these results with their primary care physician to formulate a complete preventative plan.


Question: Why Should I have My Low Dose CT Lung Screening Examination Performed at St. Paul Radiology?

Answer: The lung cancer screening CT program at St. Paul Radiology represents a state of the art screening program. All studies are interpreted by Board Certified Radiologists with expertise in body and preventative imaging. St. Paul Radiology takes a multi-disciplinary approach that will either provide you with reassurance that you are healthy, or if possible problems are detected, with immediate direction for further treatment. St. Paul Radiology physicians are active members in the medical community in the Twin Cities, and participate in the multi-disciplinary treatment of lung cancer. They participate in weekly conferences at many Twin Cities hospitals, which deal with lung cancer staging, diagnosis and treatment.


Question: Will I Need a Repeat Low Dose CT Lung Screening Examination?

Answer: Screening examinations should be repeated periodically. A negative exam today does not guarantee that cancer will not develop in the future. Furthermore, not all lung cancers are detected by CT. Presently, the interval of screening has not been well defined. Based on current information, yearly follow-up exams are suggested.


Question: Is the Low Dose CT Lung Screening Examination Covered by Insurance?

Answer: Yes. Blue Cross Blue Shield, Medica, HealthPartners and Medicare/Medicaid can be used to cover the cost of the low dose CT lung screening examination. Please call 651.222.5864 to discuss your options.


Question: Do I Need a Doctor’s Referral for the Low Dose CT Lung Screening?

Answer: No. St. Paul Radiology strongly encourages patients to work closely with their primary care physician to formulate a complete preventative care plan.

Photo of Lung Screening

Download Procedure Preparation Information

Photo of Lung Screening

About Low Dose Lung Cancer Screenings

A low dose lung cancer screening CT can detect cancer at its earliest, most curable stage.


SPR Doctor Talks CT lung Screenings

St. Paul Radiology Doctor, Peter B. Wold, talks about the importance on CT lung screenings on "Twin Cities Live."