Why is lung cancer screening especially important in communities of color?

In communities of color--which traditionally have limited access to health care information, diagnostic procedures, and medical treatment--lung cancer kills at disproportionately higher rates. The disease accounts for 25% of all cancers diagnosed in African American men; this is almost double the rate of lung cancer deaths for the overall US population. The lung cancer mortality rate for African American men is more 46% higher than that of white men.  Cancer death rates among African American women are 20% higher than among white women.

What will a screening participant be asked to do?

Each participant, with guidance from the healthcare navigator, will be asked to fill out a confidential questionnaire on smoking habits and other relevant risk factors for lung cancer.  This information is important to the radiologist reading the CT scan. The participant also signs a standard CT scan consent form.  It reminds each participant to return for the next annual screening, one year after the prior screening.  This is very important as it is these repeated annual screenings that truly save lives.

How much radiation is used in the screening CT scan?

CT screening uses a lower dose compared to standard CT scans. We strive to keep the dose between 1-2 mSv (millisieverts) or lower, although for individual patients it may be slightly higher than this value. As a comparison, average background radiation in the US is approximately 3 mSv/ year and in Denver, Colorado, due to the higher altitude it is 11.8.  Another comparison is that the exposure of a low-dose CT scan is less than a mammogram which is below 0.6 mSv.

Why would I want to have a lung cancer screening CT?

If you are at risk of lung cancer, you may want to have low-dose CT scan that can help detect lung cancer at its earliest and most curable stage.  The best hope for curing lung cancer is finding it as early as possible.  The Early Lung Cancer Action Program (ELCAP research showed that annual CT screening can find 85% of lung cancers in their earliest, most curable stage (Lancet 1999; 354:99-105). A CT scan can detect tiny spots on your lungs (called ‘nodules’) that may indicate lung cancer in this early stage (New England Journal of Medicine 2006; 355: 1763-1771).  The ELCAP research result

Past lung cancer screening findings

Cure Rate Improves With Early Detection

One of the challenges of treating lung cancer has been due to the advancement and, often, spread of the cancer cells by the time it is detected. While survival rates of other forms of cancer have improved, the survival rates for lung cancer have not. In fact, more people die from lung cancer each year than that of breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. Because symptoms of lung cancer don't usually appear until the more advanced stages, diagnosis occurs too late for the cancer to be cured.

Lung cancer testing and diagnosis

Lung cancer is one of the deadliest of all cancers and kills more people in one year than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. This is because by the time symptoms of lung cancer appear, the disease has reached advanced stages which are more difficult and sometimes impossible to cure. In the past, no screening method provided detection of lung cancer in the earliest, more treatable stages so that a sufficient number of the cancers could be cured.