Lung Cancer Screening
The Maine Comprehensive Lung Cancer Screening Program provides a “screen” or test for lung cancer in people who are at a high risk for developing the disease due to age and smoking history. The aim of this program is to find lung cancers early, before there are symptoms. Lung cancers found at an early stage, before they have had a chance to spread, have the best treatment options and outcomes.
The low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) test (or a CAT scan) is used to look for early stage lung cancer. The LDCT scan is painless and takes less than five minutes. LDCT screening tests are for people with a long history of smoking. You may be eligible for lung cancer screening if you:
- Are 55-80 years old
- Currently smoke, or stopped smoking within the last 15 years or less
- Have a smoking history of at least 30 pack years (1 pack per day for 30 years, or 2 packs per day for 15 years, etc.)
If you meet all three criteria, you may benefit from lung cancer screening. Learn more about lung cancer screening.
Screening Center of Excellence
Maine Medical Center Thoracic Oncology Outpatient Clinic has been named a Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) for its ongoing commitment to responsible lung cancer screening.
The Maine Comprehensive Lung Cancer Screening Program is led by a specially trained nurse practitioner (NP) who will “navigate” patients through the screening process. The LS NP will provide education, guidance and support throughout the screening process. Our comprehensive LS Team is made up of a multi-disciplinary group of providers with expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. This team includes radiologists, pulmonologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, thoracic surgeons and tobacco treatment specialists. The lung cancer screening program provides the following services:
- Lung cancer risk evaluation
- Education and counseling about lung cancer screening and LDCT
- LDCT scan and interpretation
- Follow-up testing and treatment based on LDCT results
- Referral to smoking cessation counseling and treatment resources
- The team is also committed to keeping your PCP updated on results and recommendations
Is LDCT screening covered by my insurance?
LDCT screening is now recognized as a recommended screening by the United States Preventive Services Task Force. Since Medicare began paying for lung cancer screening in 2015, most major insurers have added this to their list of covered services. Our staff will contact your insurer to confirm coverage before your appointment. If your insurance company does not cover this screening, or if you are uninsured, we will work with you to explore other options to cover the screening costs.
Do I need a referral from my Primary Care Provider (PCP)?
At this time we do require a referral from a PCP to enroll in the lung cancer screening program. If you do not have a PCP our staff will work with you to help you establish care with an available provider.
How does the lung cancer screening process work?
Once a referral for lung cancer screening is received in our office, you will be contacted by phone by the program LS NP. A few simple questions about your smoking history and overall health status will be asked to confirm your eligibility to participate in lung cancer screening. You will be given an opportunity to ask questions as well. If you are eligible and wish to participate, you will be given an appointment for a face to face visit with the LS NP. At this “shared decision making appointment” you will discuss the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening and whether it is right for you. If you decide to proceed, an appointment for the actual low dose CT scan will be made with the MMC Radiology Department.
How will I be informed of my results?
If your results are normal or not suspicious for lung cancer you will be notified by telephone, usually within 48 hours of the scan. A follow up appointment with the LS NP will be scheduled to discuss all other results and a follow up plan of care. The LS NP will also be responsible for notifying your PCP of your LDCT results and additional recommendations.
How often will I be scanned?
The lung cancer screening guidelines recommend a yearly LDCT for as long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria. Follow up scanning and other diagnostic testing for abnormal results are ordered based on the recommendations of the multi-disciplinary lung cancer screening team.
For More Information on Lung Cancer Screening (LS)
For additional information about the Maine Comprehensive Lung Cancer Screening Program please contact:
The Maine Comprehensive Lung Cancer Screening Program
Theresa Roelke, GNP
Lung Cancer Screening Navigator
Gary M. Hochheiser, M.D.
General information on screening can also be found through the following organizations:
Resources to Help Quit Smoking
Whether or not you choose to have a LDCT scan for lung cancer screening, the best thing you can do to lower your risk of lung cancer is to stop smoking. If you are considering stopping smoking, or if you’ve already made the decision to stop, here are resources that may be helpful.