The Screening Process
Research shows that the best test to use for lung cancer screening is spiral low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). Simply put, this screening uses a machine that takes pictures of the inside of your body from different angles using X-rays.
LDCT is an easy, painless procedure. It has many benefits, including:
- A reduced number of deaths from lung cancer and other causes
- Diagnosis of lung cancer at an earlier stage than cancer found because of symptoms
- A better chance of minimally invasive surgery with less lung tissue removed
There are also some risks associated with this screening. Although there is a small risk of radiation, the LDCT uses a much lower amount than standard doses of a CT scan, or even a routine mammogram. Other known risks of this screening include:
- A chance that the cancer isn’t found early enough to be cured
- A chance of being treated even though the cancer grows so slowly that it wouldn’t cause death
- The possibility of getting unneeded tests, treatments or both because the screening results were inaccurate
What to Expect During the Screening
If a decision is made that this screening is right for you, here’s what you can expect. Before the test you may be asked to not eat or drink anything for a short period of time. You will also be asked to remove all metal from your body before the test begins. During the test, you will lie on a table which will slide into a machine that has a large tunnel in the middle. You will need to lie very still during the test, and pillows or straps may be used to help you do this. You will be alone in the room when the test takes place, but a technician will operate the machine in a nearby room and will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times.
The entire test takes about 30 minutes. During this time, the machine will take many pictures which the computer will then combine into one detailed picture at the end. The machine may make strange buzzing and whirring noises, but earplugs are available if you would like to wear them.
Once the test is complete, it will take several days for your test results to be reviewed and interpreted. The results from your scan will be sent to the doctor who referred you for screening. He or she will review the results of the scan and discuss with you if any follow up is needed. Because a spiral CT scan is so detailed, it’s possible that something will show up on the exam that is not cancer. Your doctor will discuss the best way to follow up on any test result.
Click here to see if this screening is right for you.