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USING CT TO SCREEN FOR LUNG CANCER IN ALBERTA

In September 2022, Alberta Health Services (AHS) launched the Alberta Lung Cancer Screening Program, a two-year pilot project that will offer lung cancer screening using low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans to approximately 3,000 eligible Albertans.

Five Mayfair Diagnostics radiologists are participating in this pilot project and will be reading these CT lung cancer screening studies, including several sub-specialized thoracic radiologists.

For patients in the Calgary area, you must meet the following criteria to be eligible to participate in the AHS lung cancer screening program:

  • You are a patient within the Mosaic Primary Care Network (PCN).
  • You are between the ages of 50 and 74.
  • You are someone who currently smokes cigarettes or have quit after smoking for many years. For example, you smoked one pack per day for at least 15 years, or less than one pack per day for more than 15 years.

WHY GET SCREENED?

The purpose of this pilot program is to develop a new approach for cancer care by using CT scans to detect lung cancer earlier in high-risk patients so that they can be treated sooner and have a better chance at survival.

High-risk patients who are outside the Mosaic PCN or are not one of the 3,000 patients chosen for the pilot program are still able to receive lung cancer screening. Mayfair’s lead chest radiologist and lead CT technologist have ensured that the lung screening protocols for our private pay CT lung scans are aligned with the protocols for the public program.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death and its 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.

Studies have shown that for high-risk patients with no symptoms, regular lung cancer screening can lower the risk of dying from lung cancer by almost 25%. CT screening for these individuals should occur annually up to three consecutive years.

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.

WHAT IS CT LUNG SCREENING?

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 screening 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 screening 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 screening for findings of concern. Your images are reviewed by sub-specialized thoracic radiologists who are familiar with lung screening protocols and will compile a detailed report for your doctor.

HOW DO I GET CT LUNG SCREENING?

If you are participating in the CT lung screening pilot program, the exam is covered by your Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan and will be performed at the Peter Lougheed Centre. However, patients can also choose to pay privately.

At Mayfair Diagnostics we provide CT lung screening as a private pay exam 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.

For more information, please visit our services page.

 

REFERENCES

Alberta Health Services (2022) “New screening program will use CT scans to detect early-stage lung cancer.” www.albertahealthservices.ca. Accessed December 20, 2022.

Alberta Health Services (2022) “Get screened.” www.screeningforlife.ca. Accessed December 20, 2022.

American Cancer Society (2022) “Can Lung Cancer Be Found Early?” www.cancer.org. Accessed December 20, 2022.

Canadian Cancer Society (2022) “Risk factors for lung cancer.” www.cancer.ca. Accessed December 20, 2022.

Canadian Cancer Society (2022) “Lung and bronchus cancer statistics.” www.cancer.ca. Accessed December 20, 2022.

Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (2016) “New Lung Cancer Screening Guideline.” www.canadiantaskforce.ca. Accessed December 20, 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 December 20, 2022.

Healthwise Staff (2022) “Lung Cancer.” www.myhealth.alberta.ca. Accessed December 20, 2022.

 

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