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Published on November 13, 2015

New Screening May Help Spot Lung Cancer Early

Lung cancer can be especially hard to treat in its later stages, and much more manageable when detected early.

"We have not had a vehicle for early lung cancer detection," says Santa Barbara medical oncologist Dr. Fred Kass. "There has been no mammogram for lung cancer."

That's now changed thanks to low-dose X-ray technology that allows a more detailed look inside the lungs than a traditional chest X-ray. Cottage Health's Center for Advanced Imaging started offering the fast, non-invasive CAT-scan this spring through its new Lung Screening Program. The program is designed for those at high risk of developing lung cancer.

To qualify for a screening, you must be between the ages of 55-77 and be a current or former smoker with a history of smoking one pack a day for at least 30 years, or a similar level of tobacco exposure in a shorter period of time, for example, having smoked two packs a day for at least 15 years.

Studies show early lung cancer screenings can reduce lung cancer deaths by up to 20 percent for high-risk patients. Based on the results of the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial and other studies, the United States Preventive Services Task Force and the American Lung Association have backed the screening for those who meet the criteria.

The test is intended for people who are high-risk but do not have any major signs or symptoms of lung cancer, or any other related conditions that would prevent them from receiving cancer treatment. To obtain a screening, you must have an order for the test from a doctor or mid-level practitioner. With an order, the screening is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and many private insurance plans.

Cottage Health Nurse Navigator, Kate Moesker, can help patients through the screening process, detection, follow-up and cancer diagnosis and care. For more information on the screening, please call 805-324-9235. As an added benefit, screening participants who are still smoking can receive guidance on effective ways to stop.

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