Ask Your Doctor, “Should I Get A CT Scan For Lung Cancer Screening?”

July 31, 2013

Worldwide,  lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths.  85% of all lung  cancers are caused from tobacco use. Now there is a screening test that is available that has been shown to reduce death from lung cancer. Torrance Memorial Hospital is offering this low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer for $350. Most insurance companies do not cover this test and they do require payment at the time of the exam.

The goal is to detect the lung cancer early and have a better chance of a cure. People at high risk of lung cancer are age 55 to 74 years old and have smoked at least 30 pack two years (this is the number of packs smoked per day times the number of years the person smoked)  and are currently smokers or  have quit within the past 15 years.

The National Lung Screening Trial, NLST, was a large study of patients at high risk of lung cancer. The results were published in 2011. It showed that CT screening reduced lung  cancer deaths by 20% in patients who were at high risk of developing lung cancer. In this study the CT scanning had a false positive rate of one in four. A false positive result means that the positive screening test was found not to be lung cancer. A false positive result  may result in more CT testing ( and therefore more radiation and cost)  and follow-up tests such as biopsies or surgery. CT screening does expose the person to radiation and may not detect an actual one cancer. Note that the CT scanners that are done for this are lower dose than traditional CT scans.

The NLST study found that of 1000 people at high risk for lung cancer 609 had negative results and did not have cancer. 391 had positive results but of those only 14 had lung cancer. It found that 320 people at high risk for lung cancer needed to be screened to prevent one death from lung cancer.

If you would like more information you can contact the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.GOV or the American Cancer Society at You may also contact the Nurse Cordinator at Torrance Memorial Hospital at 310-517-4665.

As your concierge physician, please contact me for more information or to see if this test would be beneficial to you.Nancy Griffith MD, MPH 310 373-5566,