Chest / Thoracic Imaging Services
The chest/thoracic imaging subspecialists at MRL specialize in the study and diagnosis of non-cardiac diseases of the chest involving: the lungs, the mediastinum (region of the chest containing structures such as the trachea and esophagus), the pleura (lining of the lungs), and the chest wall.
Low dose CT for lung cancer screening
Our radiologists are on the cutting edge of lung cancer screening, offering low dose CT scans to evaluate the lungs for signs of cancer. We can also see emphysema and some coronary artery (heart) disease on this scan. Knowing that these things are present can help you make positive changes in your life/lifestyle in order to decrease your risk of lung cancer and/or heart disease.
This test is now covered by Medicare and private insurers in people who meet all of the following criteria:
- 55-77 years old
- Must be a current smoker OR a former smoker who quit LESS than 15 years ago
- Has/had smoked at least 30 pack/years
- a pack/year is defined as the # packs/day multiplied by the # years smoked
- 30 pack/year could either be from smoking 30 packs/day for 1 year (30×1), or smoking 1 pack/day for 30 years (1×30). If you smoke ½ pack per day for 60 years, that is also a 30 pack/year smoking history. If you smoke 1 pack per day for 10 years, that is a 10 pack/year history and you do not qualify.
- Has never had lung cancer and has no current signs or symptoms of lung cancer
The low dose lung screen CT scan can detect nodules smaller than a pea! Not all nodules, or “spots” on the lung are cancer. In fact, many of the nodules that we see on CT scans are benign/nothing to worry about. Keep in mind that a nodule may have been there for a long time, making it almost certainly benign, but perhaps this is the first time we have ever looked at your lungs. Previous infections or even tiny benign lymph nodes can cause nodules/”spots” on lungs, so if we find something on your first CT scan try not to be too alarmed. We will continue to monitor it with repeat CT scans every few months or years depending on how big it is and what it looks like. Depending on how big it is and how long it has been there, it is possible to estimate how likely it is to be cancer. If we are concerned we may recommend another test or perhaps a biopsy/sample of the nodule. We do recommend annual/yearly low dose lung CT to look for signs of cancer for as long as you meet the above criteria. More importantly, we recommend that you try to quit smoking as soon as possible.
Quitting smoking can be extremely challenging, but it can be done! According to the American Cancer Society’s Guide To Quitting Smoking, “People who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who keep smoking? “ In addition, the benefits of quitting are almost immediate:
When smokers quit – what are the benefits over time?
20 minutes after quitting
Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
(Effect of smoking on arterial stiffness and pulse pressure amplification, Mahmud
A, Feely J. Hypertension. 2003:41:183)
12 hours after quitting
The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1988, p. 202)
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting
Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp.193, 194,196, 285, 323)
1 to 9 months after quitting
Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 285-287, 304)