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CT AND LUNG CANCER

Medical imaging can play an important role in early detection for many conditions. For example, mammography screening is the best way to find breast cancer early in its more treatable stage. The survival rates for breast cancer have been increasing since the 1980s, thanks to earlier detection from regular mammogram screening and improvements in breast cancer treatments.

Research has also shown that using CT for early detection of lung cancer can significantly improve outcomes. Currently, lung cancer guidelines recommend using computed tomography (CT) to detect early lung cancer in high-risk patient populations.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death and most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadians. Survival rates are among the lowest for all types of cancer in Canada. On average, 57 Canadians will die from lung and bronchus cancer every day.

WHO’S AT RISK FOR LUNG CANCER?

While most cancers are the result of many risk factors, smoking tobacco is the most important factor that increases your risk for developing lung cancer. Smoking accounts for about 72% of lung cancer cases in Canada. Your risk also increases depending on:

  • How long you smoked.
  • How old you were when you started.
  • How many cigarettes you smoke each day.

Your risk also increases with age – most cases occur among people aged 60 years or older. Men also have a slightly higher risk than women.

Screening is recommended for “…adults aged 55-74 years with at least a 30 pack-year smoking history, who currently smoke or quit less than 15 years ago…” CT screening for these individuals should occur annually up to three consecutive years.

HOW DOES CT SCREENING IMPROVE OUTCOMES?

Results from the NELSON trial in Belgium and the Netherlands concluded that CT screening of asymptomatic men at high risk for lung cancer reduced lung cancer deaths by an overall percentage of 26% after 10 years.

This high-profile study followed more than 15,000 individuals who were at high risk for lung cancer but did not have symptoms. Half were placed in a control group, which did not receive CT screening, and half in the study group. Compared to the control group, CT lung screening of participants in the study group led to early detection of lung cancer and increased survival rates, with few false positives and more successful surgical interventions.

WHAT IS COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY (CT)?

A computed tomography (CT) scan uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to provide comprehensive images of any part of the body, such as the lungs. This advanced medical imaging technique is much more detailed than regular X-rays and can help examine suspicious lung nodules for lung cancer, as well as other serious illnesses.

CT lung exams could be appropriate for patients at high risk of lung cancer due to smoking, a family or personal history of lung cancer, or other risk factors. In these cases, CT can help detect early signs of lung cancer, as small as just a few millimeters in size.

At Mayfair Diagnostics, we use a low-dose technique to limit your radiation exposure while looking for findings of concern. Your images would be reviewed by sub-specialized thoracic radiologists who are familiar with CT lung protocols and will compile a detailed report for your doctor.

HOW DO I GET CT LUNG EXAMS?

CT lung exams that are covered by your Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan are performed in hospital, although patients can choose to pay privately if they are unable to wait for imaging within the public system.

At Mayfair Diagnostics we provide CT lung exams as private pay services at our Mayfair Place location. These exams are not covered by Alberta Health Care. They can be purchased for single or multiple body areas. We also offer Health Assessment packages, which provide a discount on multiple imaging exams when purchased together.

Your health spending account or group medical insurance plan may cover the cost of a private CT that is prescribed by a qualified health care practitioner. You will need to check with your plan administrator for coverage details.

Whether public or private, a CT must be requested by a health care practitioner. To determine whether a CT is recommended, you will need to discuss with your doctor your medical and family history, risk factors, and if there are symptoms, how long symptoms have been present and how they affect daily activities.

If a private CT scan is indicated as a best next course of action, a requisition will be provided, and the appointment can be booked. It’s important to note that the exposure to radiation from a CT scan is higher than that of standard X-rays, but the associated risk is still small. For example, the radiation exposure from one low-dose CT scan of the chest is less than the exposure from the earth’s natural background radiation over six months. In most cases, the benefits of a CT, such as the early detection of a serious illness, outweigh the small increased risk from radiation exposure.

At Mayfair Diagnostics we have been offering community CT services in Calgary since 2002, using state-of-the-art technology to serve our patients. Our very experienced team includes highly qualified technologists and support staff, and specialized radiologists who interpret the images. These radiologists have sub-specialty expertise, which helps ensure patients receive a thorough diagnosis, allowing them to save time and focus on treatment options.

For more information, please visit our services page.

 

REFERENCES

American Cancer Society (2022) “Can Lung Cancer Be Found Early?” www.cancer.org. Accessed October 26, 2022.

Canadian Cancer Society (2022) “Risk factors for lung cancer.” www.cancer.ca. Accessed October 26, 2022.

Canadian Cancer Society (2022) “Lung and bronchus cancer statistics.” www.cancer.ca. Accessed October 26, 2022.

Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (2016) “New Lung Cancer Screening Guideline.” www.canadiantaskforce.ca. Accessed October 26, 2022.

De Koning, H. J., et al. (2020) “Reduced Lung-Cancer Mortality with Volume CT Screening in a Randomized Trial.” New England Journal of Medicine, 2020; 382:503-513. Accessed October 26, 2022.

Healthwise Staff (2021) “Lung Cancer.” www.myhealth.alberta.ca. Accessed October 26, 2022.

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