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Winthrop-University Hospital's Lung Cancer Screening

Jeffrey G. Schneider, MD, FACP explains lung cancer screenings and their importance for the early detection of lung cancer

Why Screen for Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the US for both men and women, killing more Americans than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined. The best hope for survival is early detection. Today’s highly advanced low-dose radiation CT scanning technology can detect lung cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage.

Commonly, the disease is discovered at late stages, when symptoms are evident and treatment outcomes are poor. However, if lung cancer is diagnosed early with low-dose CT screening, survival rates can exceed 90%.

What is Lung Cancer Screening?

Lung cancer screening uses low-dose CT scanning with radiation levels similar to that required for mammography. The technology produces high quality images that permit very detailed examination of lung tissue for evidence of disease before symptoms develop.

The CT scans used for this screening are noninvasive, painless and quick. No contrast or injections are  used. There is no preparation on the part of the participant. The scan is a low radiation dose and the participant is in the scanner for only 10 seconds.

Who is Eligible for Lung Cancer Screening?

Individuals with all of the following risk factors should be screened for lung cancer:

  • Current or former smoker (quit within the last 15 years)
  • Smoking history of 30 pack years or more (One pack per day for 30 years equals 30 pack years)
  • Age: 55-79
  • Asymptomatic

What is the Process For Screening Referrals?

Participants are referred for screening by their physician (internist or pulmonologist) to the screening coordinator who is an oncology certified registered nurse by faxing the prescription to the coordinator at 516-663-2746.

The coordinator reviews screening eligibility information with the participant to ensure those at high risk are screened. The coordinator will advise the physician’s office staff, if needed, on the correct codes for the test to be authorized through insurance and review the physician’s script to ensure the correct codes are included on the prescription. Once authorization is obtained, if necessary, the person is scheduled at our outpatient radiology office located at 120 Mineola Blvd, Lower Level.

Once the scan is completed, a report is generated by our radiologist and includes a LUNG-Rads category and a recommended follow up timeframe. This provides the referring physician with a clear protocol for follow up on the screening scan. Results are communicated to the participant by the coordinator. For routine follow up, result letters are mailed to the participant. If follow up is recommended in 3 months or less, the coordinator calls the participant to discuss the results and answer any questions.

What if an Abnormality is Found That Needs Immediate Follow Up?

Abnormalities requiring immediate follow up are directly communicated by the radiologist reading the images to the referring provider. The coordinator then contacts the referring provider and offers to navigate the participant through the recommended follow up procedures.

Based on the provider’s preference, the coordinator contacts the participant to coordinate any follow procedures. The coordinator will navigate the participant through diagnosis. If a lung cancer is diagnosed, the coordinator will refer the participant to the lung cancer nurse navigator to assist in the coordination of care based on the referring provider’s recommendation.

What Makes our Program Different?

The Lung Cancer Screening Program at Winthrop-University Hospital utilizes an oncology certified registered nurse to coordinate the screening from the start of the process to a final diagnosis. This provides the participants with a knowledgeable, trained individual to coordinate their care and answer any questions.

Our screening program is integrated with our multi-disciplinary lung cancer program including board certified chest radiologists, pulmonologists, oncologists, thoracic surgeons, and radiation oncologists -- which ensures any abnormality detected can be diagnosed and treated with state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment options.

Another unique feature of our program is the annual and short term follow up provided by the coordinator. Participants are contacted by the coordinator when they are due to return for annual or short term follow up scans providing continuity of care and support to the referring physicians.

For more information, please contact our screening coordinator, Alisa Braithwaite, RN, OCN at 516-663-4658.