Program Offers Low Cost Lung Cancer Screenings To People At High Risk

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CaduceusNEW BRUNSWICK–Aiming to promote the early detection of lung cancer, the Thoracic Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey has partnered with its Flagship Hospital Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) and University Radiology to offer $99 lung cancer screenings to the community.

The screening is aimed at those who are at high risk for developing lung cancer due to current or past smoking habits and/or a history of chronic lung disease. Smokers and former smokers over age 50 with 30 or more “pack years” (number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked) are encouraged to participate in this screening. The process involves a low-dose computerized tomography (CT) scan of the chest and usually takes about five to ten minutes to complete. The CT scanner uses an x-ray source similar to that used in an ordinary chest x-ray, however the x-ray beam is so tightly focused that portions of the body outside the scanned region receive very little x-ray exposure.

The advanced scanning technology produces highly-detailed two- and three-dimensional images of the chest area. If the test is conducted at one of this program’s radiology locations, scan results are read and interpreted at no cost by board-certified specialists, many of whom participated in the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST). In 2010 the NLST showed for the first time that a screening CT scan reduced lung cancer deaths. In the study, 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths were found among those who received the CT screening versus those who underwent a standard chest x-ray. The Cancer Institute of New Jersey was one of 33 study sites nationwide that participated in that effort.

This past summer, the United States Preventive Services Task Force made a draft recommendation that those at high risk for lung cancer should be screened annually with low-dose CT scans. “The $99 cost is helpful in providing those individuals with the means to at least have a baseline assessment, as many insurance companies usually will not pay for the test unless someone already has findings worrisome for lung cancer,” notes medical oncologist and Co-Director of the Thoracic Oncology Program, Joseph Aisner, MD, who is also a professor of medicine and environmental and occupational medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Because the Thoracic Oncology Program recognizes the importance of early detection and ensuring the best outcomes for lung cancer patients, we are helping to subsidize this cost for high-risk individuals.” The average scan typically costs $300 without insurance.

Just as important, John Langenfeld, MD, thoracic surgeon and co-director of the program, notes while there is a benefit to the screening it should not deter smokers from efforts to quit. “CT testing has been shown to help with the early detection of lung cancer, but individuals should keep in mind that the screening does not prevent the development of the disease. The most effective way to decrease lung cancer incidence and death is to help smokers with tobacco cessation efforts,” said Dr. Langenfeld, who is an assistant professor of surgery/cardiothoracic surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and acting chief of thoracic surgery at RWJUH. “Through the Tobacco Dependence Program at the Cancer Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers School of Public Health, individuals have access to free quit resources including one-on-one and group counseling; quit aids such as patches, gums and inhalers; and consultation with medical professionals for prescription therapies for those who qualify. These efforts coupled with our new screening program are vital to the Thoracic Oncology Program’s efforts to help reduce the impact of lung cancer.”

To make an appointment at University Radiology’s Plum Street location in New Brunswick (or to find other participating locations), call 732-235-5947 or visit http://www.cinj.org/lungcancerscreening to learn more about the program.

To learn more about the Tobacco Dependence Program, or to make an appointment for assessment and assistance in quitting, call 732-235-8222 or email stopsmoking@rutgers.edu.


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