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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Lung Cancer Screening Program at Karmanos Cancer Center?

The Lung Cancer Screening Program at the Karmanos Cancer Center (KCC) consists of annual CT scans over a 3-year period. These scans will be conducted at KCC’s Weisberg facility in Farmington Hills, MI. Screening for lung cancer is a process, and cannot be completed with a single test.

What is a CT scan?

A CT (Computerized Tomography) scan consists of taking pictures of the inside of the entire chest in about five to ten seconds. The CT scan can detect small lung abnormalities.

What is a low-dose CT scan?

Your CT lung screening study at Karmanos Cancer Center is tailored to detect lung nodules and minimize your exposure to x-ray radiation. The amount of radiation for the low-dose lung screening CT is five times less than the exposure for a full-dose diagnostic CT chest scan. It is also about one-half the amount a person living at sea level would be exposed to from natural sources over the course of one year.

Why should I get a CT scan of my lungs?

Not every smoker will develop lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Studies show, however, that approximately 10-15% of smokers will develop lung cancer. The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), a study of over 50,000 current or former smokers aged 55-80, conducted by the National Cancer Institute found that early detection of lung cancer increases the likelihood of successful treatment. While the best way to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking, it has been found that screening can also reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer.

What is the difference between a screening chest CT scan and a standard diagnostic chest CT scan?

Screening CT scans are used solely to detect new lung nodules. 

Why can’t everyone be screened for lung cancer?

The best evidence we have limits screening recommendations to older adults who have been heavy smokers.

Why do I need three CT scans?

The CT scans will be used to evaluate your lung health and to detect changes that occur over time.  A radiologist will review your CT scans for abnormalities, and will track any changes that occur from year to year.  We will send you and your primary health care provider copies of the results.  Just because the first scan is clear, participants should continue to receive the next two scans in order to ensure that new nodules have not developed.

Current evidence from the NLST supports limiting the number of CT scans to one per year for 3 years.  Future studies may show a benefit for screening with CT scans beyond this time frame.  In the event such additional evidence is found, we will contact you. 

What constitutes a CT finding that requires follow-up?

The CT scans are interpreted by a radiologist. Abnormalities identified may include nodules of various sizes, scarring, and emphysema (also called COPD). The CT may also detect abnormalities in other parts of the chest such as the heart, blood vessels and bones. Any abnormality detected will be considered a positive scan by the radiologist. Many smokers or former smokers will have findings that could be caused by inflammation, scarring or lung diseases other than lung cancer. Follow up with a Karmanos Cancer Center lung specialist or your primary health care provider may be recommended by the radiologist for further diagnostic tests. It is important to note that a recommendation for further tests does not necessarily mean that lung cancer is suspected.

What should I do if I receive a letter that indicates normal results?

No further action is necessary until your next annual screening CT scan.

What should I do if I receive a letter with positive findings?

Positive findings are based on the CT interpretation by the radiologist. These positive findings could be significant or minor. We recommend a follow up visit with a Karmanos Cancer Center lung specialist or your primary health care provider to discuss the results of the CT scan and determine if further tests are necessary. You can call 1-800-KARMANOS to make an appointment with a Karmanos lung specialist.

What is the likelihood of a finding that requires follow-up?

In the National Lung Screening Trial, approximately 25% of individuals had findings requiring further follow up with a physician. Not all of these individuals had lung cancer.

What is the likelihood that a positive finding represents lung cancer?

4% of participants in the NLST who had a positive finding on their CT scan had lung cancer. Other positive scans represented either false positives (resulting from scar tissue or other benign lesions) or other medical conditions.

What is the likelihood that clinically significant abnormalities other than lung cancer will be detected on a lung cancer screening CT?

In the NLST, approximately 14% of individuals had clinically significant findings, other than lung cancer, that required additional investigation. These abnormalities include lung disease, aortic aneurysm, and tumors other than lung cancer.

How does this program differ from other cancer screening programs (such as mammography or colon cancer screening)?

A lung cancer screening program requires a multidisciplinary approach, with physicians of different disciplines all collaborating to monitor changes in a patient’s lung health over the course of three years.  In addition, benign lung nodules are found very frequently in lung cancer screening studies.

Why should I choose Karmanos Cancer Center for lung cancer screening?

The Karmanos Cancer Center is a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Karmanos is the only hospital in Michigan dedicated exclusively to fighting cancer.  The Thoracic Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Karmanos Cancer Center participating in this program includes surgeons, medical oncologists, pulmonologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, and research coordinators.  The experts in this team focus primarily on the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer and therefore have a level of expertise that other centers may not have.  Lung cancer screening may indicate further follow up that requires this level of expertise.  The level of expertise at Karmanos ensures that your CTs will be read and analyzed by physicians who diagnose and treat cancer exclusively.

Why do I need to have a primary care physician to participate in this program?

As a cancer hospital, our specialists are dedicated to the treatment of cancer. If an abnormality unrelated to cancer is found during a CT scan, we need to ensure that participants of the program have a primary care physician to perform follow-up exams and care. This requirement is specifically for the safety and well being of our program participants.

© 2014 Karmanos Cancer Institute Pencil
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.