Dr. Shameem Azizad discusses a CT lung screening and why it’s important to get one.
Anchor: Welcome back to We Are Austin. You know knowledge is power when it comes to your health. If you’re thinking about getting a screening the team at ARA Diagnostic Imaging can help. Dr. Azizad is here to discuss when it’s a good time to take a closer look at your lungs. Thanks for being with us.
Doctor: Good morning!
Anchor: So, it’s a term we’ve heard but what is a CT lung screening and why is it important to do?
Doctor: A screening exam, in general, is something that’s done before you have symptoms of it. Similar to you’d get a mammogram for breast cancer or you’d get blood work for cholesterol or a diabetes screening. So, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related death in men and women.
Doctor: In 2014, about 435 people a day died of lung cancer.
Anchor: Oh my goodness.
Doctor: The US preventive task force, in 2013, came out with a recommendation for an annual, low dose, lung cancer screening CT. The reason we say it’s important to get checked before you have symptoms, is if you present with symptoms of lung cancer you have about a seventeen percent survival rate, five-year survival rate after that. The comparison between a CT versus a chest x-ray is about a twenty percent increased detection rate.
Anchor: So who is it recommended for and what are we looking at here first?
Doctor: Most of your viewers are familiar with a plain chest x-ray which is a front and side view of our lungs. A CT is x-rays shot around your entire body and we compile hundreds of images together to look at your body within a tenth of a millimeter.
Anchor: Yeah, its really comprehensive.
Doctor: So, all of the black stuff is air, but then all the white stuff that you’re seeing is just your lung markings and your vasculature.
Anchor: So you get a lot of information from these.
Doctor: It’s a lot more information, yeah.
Anchor: So, who’s it recommended for who should really make this a priority to get a screening?
Doctor: So, the number one population that should get it is smokers, current or former smokers. Ninety percent of all patients who have lung cancer were smoking patients. Whether you’re a current smoker or you’ve quit within the past fifteen years, patients within 55 to 80 years old, and if you’ve had a thirty-year pack smoking history. That’s either two packs a day for fifteen years or one pack a day for thirty years.
Anchor: What if you’re a smoker but maybe not in this highest risk group? How would you encourage them to proceed as well?
Doctor: In general, as physicians and radiologists we discourage unnecessary imaging because in general the benefits of an exam you get should outweigh the risks of the exam you get. One thing would be radiation exposure. Secondly, we may find things that we didn’t need to find and then you may see yourself getting additional exams and biopsies that you didn’t need. In general, it’s not recommended. Also, back tracking to who it is recommended for, Medicare covers it in the high-risk population.
Anchor: Good to know.
Doctor: So, its deemed essential for that population to get it.
Anchor: Let’s talk about what happens if you do find something.
Doctor: Sure! It depends on what you find. Lung nodules, a lot of things could cause lung nodules in people. Whether it be an infection, old infection or a new one, or cancer. You may get additional exams depending on what we find in the beginning. I can show you some images if you’re interested.
Anchor: Yes, please! What are we looking at here?
Doctor: This is a typical, what we would call a ground glass nodule. When we do a screen exam, like, you’ve never had an exam before, and we see this in you we aren’t immediately going to say, “Go get a biopsy.” Probably, depending on the size, either a one month follow-up or a three month follow-up because this is kind of a bigger nodule. In this particular patient, it just completely resolved in three months so it was just an infectious or inflammatory nodule.
Anchor: Oh, interesting.
Doctor: Similarly, this is also a ground glass nodule, and in this patient it did end up being cancer. So then you get biopsied and treated.
Doctor: Similar, this is actually a solid nodule. It’s a simple lymph node – it’s benign. We know that just based on its location and it’s imaging features.
Anchor: How interesting. So, how does someone get a screening? What’s the best way to approach that whole process?
Doctor: If you’re in that high-risk population, I would recommend discussing it with your physician. Then they’ll refer you similar to how you’d get any other x-ray or whatever. There’s no prep required. You just show up and there’s no ‘no eating’ or whatever. Also, I would recommend making sure the place you choose to do it is designated as a lung cancer screening facility and they are accredited by the American College of Radiology. That means they’ll be doing it with appropriate radiation dosing, the proper follow up for the patients and that sort of thing.
Anchor: Yeah, this is such helpful information. Thank you.
Doctor: No problem.
Anchor: It’s really great to be proactive about our health and feel like we’re educated and informed as we do it. Thank you for explaining.
Doctor: I’m happy to be here. Thanks for having me!
Anchor: We have more information up on the screen about ARA. If you want to head to a-u-s-r-a-d dot com for more info or pick up the phone and give them a call to ask them some of those questions and plan ahead to be proactive about it. Thank you so much.
Doctor: Thank you!