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Lung Cancer Screening

Lung cancer can affect anyone but older adults with a history of smoking cigarettes are at a higher risk. There are over 1,400 lung cancer diagnoses in Maine each year. This number may be surprising, but it is not without hope. Lung cancer screening is an effective way to detect cancer early, giving you more time and options in your treatment. The MaineHealth Cancer Care Network offers comprehensive lung cancer screenings to test people at high risk for lung cancer.

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.

Talk with your health care provider about lung cancer screening if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • You are between 50-80 years old;
  • You currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years;
  • You have smoked an amount that is equal to or greater than 20 pack years, such as:
    • 1 pack a day for 20 years, or
    • 2 packs a day for 10 years

A low-dose CT (LDCT) scan is used to look for early-stage lung cancer in people with a long history of smoking. The LDCT scan does not hurt and takes less than 5 minutes to complete.

For people who are eligible, the cost of lung cancer screening is covered by most health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. However, the details of exactly who qualifies can vary. For example, some insurance plans may cover screening for people of slightly different ages or history of pack years. Call your health insurance company to confirm the specific details of your plan.

Learn more about lung cancer screening.

lung cancer screening seal 170Screening 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.

Is lung cancer screening covered by my insurance?

Lung cancer screening is recognized as a recommended screening by the United States Preventive Services Task Force. For people who are eligible, the cost of lung cancer screening is covered by most health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. However, the details of exactly who qualifies can vary. 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
(207) 396-7788

Gary M. Hochheiser, M.D.
Thoracic Surgery
(207) 396-7788

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.