Low-Dose CT Lung Screening

How could asbestos-exposed workers benefit from a low-dose CT lung screening?

Low-dose CT lung screening in asbestos-exposed workers is effective in detecting asymptomatic lung cancer. Providing a CT scan for asbestos-exposed workers could reduce mortality and allow early detection and treatment of any and all lung abnormalities. Low-dose lung screening should not be neglected, particularly for individuals combining both a history of asbestos work exposure and a history of smoking.

Is there a difference between a low-dose CT scan and a traditional X-ray?

The type of low-dose CT scan that is recommended for lung cancer screening is a newer form of CT, which provides very detailed images and can show early-stage lung cancers that may be too small to be detected by a traditional X-ray. Traditional X-rays can identify lung cancers the size of a dime, whereas lowdose spiral CT scans can reveal lung abnormalities the size of a grain of rice. This is a crucial difference — the smaller the tumor is when it is detected, the less likely the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This means more treatment options and a higher chance of survival.

What should I expect during a low-dose CT scan?

A low-dose CT scan is a quick, painless and non-invasive approach to screen for lung cancer. This type of CT scan uses no dyes, no injections and requires nothing to swallow by mouth. The actual scan itself takes less than a minute to complete and from start-to-finish, the entire appointment takes approximately 15 minutes.

Are there any risks involved in CT screenings?

Compared to a conventional CT, the low-dose CT scan for lung cancer uses approximately five times less radiation. Depending on the size of the patient, a lowdose CT scan will typically deliver 1 to 4 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation exposure. A conventional CT scan typically delivers between 5 to 20 mSv. Radiation exposure is always something to consider when going in for a procedure like a low-dose CT scan. Though the radiation exposure from a low-dose CT scan is higher than a typical X-ray, the benefits of receiving such a screening dramatically outweigh the risks of not having the screening.

What if the scan finds something?

It normally takes about a week to receive the results from a low-dose CT scan. It should be noted that abnormalities are common and most are noncancerous and harmless. If the CT scan reveals something abnormal, we will discuss next steps in the process, including further diagnostic tests and/or repeat imaging. The good news is that when lung cancer is found at an early stage, success rates for treating the disease are much higher.

Additional screening guidelines can be found on the CDC website at:

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/screening.htm

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