By Janet Podolak

Thanks to a brand-new program resulting from an unusual partnership, smokers and those who have recently quit smoking can get a quick screening for lung cancer that identifies the cancer so early it often can be put into remission.

Furthermore, the CT scan used for the screening costs just $99, so even those without health insurance coverage can take part.

Dr. Louis Novak, director of radiation oncology at the Lake Health University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Mentor, describes the new program as a joint venture between the Mentor Cancer Center and Lake Health.

“Recent studies have confirmed that early detection is key in saving lives,” he said. “High-risk people are the ones who are eligible for the screening, which means those 55 to 74 years old with no symptoms of lung cancer.”

Additionally, they must be current or former smokers who have quit within the past 15 years. A Patient Page, available at the Mentor Cancer Center, 9485 Mentor Ave., is available with all the details.

“We’re losing money on this screening,” said Dr. David Steiger, head of radiology for Lake Health and the originator of the new effort. “It’s all based on a national lung-screening trial that compared plain chest X-rays with low-dose (CT) scan screenings among high risk patients. It resulted in a 20 percent decrease in deaths from lung cancer among those who got the CT scan. That’s pretty considerable.”

The low radiation scans, which take just a few seconds to complete, are done by referral and appointment at Lake Health’s West Medical Center in Willoughby and its TriPoint Medical Center in Concord Township.

A computed tomography (CT) scan is an imaging method that uses X-rays to create pictures of cross-sections of the body, in this case, the lungs.

“It takes people longer to get on and off the table than the scan takes,” Steiger said.

Patients need a doctor’s referral for the scan, but Lake Health can also arrange that for those who call its Best of Health line at 800-454-9800.

“A doctor’s referral is needed because the results need to go back to a physician to help assure any recommended follow-up treatment gets done,” Steiger said.

Scans are interpreted by specially trained board-certified radiologists with backup from specialized computer software when a possible nodule is identified. Those results are put in layman’s terms for the patient by the referring doctor.

“Our patient navigator, Lisa Bennett, tracks the scans and the recommendations in our database to make sure the recommended follow-up gets done.

“Although the scan itself is meant to identify nodules that might be cancer, it also spots aneurysms, bone lesions and other issues that may lead to other things,” Steiger said.

If the scan identifies a possibly cancerous nodule, a biopsy might be ordered, he said.

“Then the scan along with the follow up recommendations goes to a multidisciplinary team developed to care for the entire patient,” Steiger said.

In addition to the primary-care physician and radiologist, the team would include a pulmonologist, thoracic surgeon and occupational health nurse to serve as both a check and balance and assure that everyone’s on the same page, he said.

Follow-up treatment for those diagnosed with cancer can be done in Mentor at the Lake Health UH Seidman Cancer Center.

Smokers will be guided to a smoking-cessation program, and those with problem-free lungs in the scan likely will be advised to have another scan in two to three years.

“Although anyone who has ever smoked will have a greater risk of lung cancer, the risk drops as soon as a smoker quits and continues to decrease as the years pass,” he said.

Those eligible for the $99 scans must be current or former smokers with a 30-pack-year history of smoking, That’s the number of years smoked multiplied by the usual number of packs of cigarettes smoked a day. Someone smoking two packs a day for 15 years, for instance, has 30 pack years of smoking.

Physicians wishing to refer patients for the low-dose CT scan should call Lisa Bennett at 440 375-8121.

Janet Podolak (2013), New low-cost CT scan in Lake County for smokers can ID disease presence early enough to save lives
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