HOUSTON (July 23, 2015)

Lung cancer screening before symptoms present has the potential to greatly increase the chance of surviving a disease that is expected to claim more than 150,000 lives this year in the United States, according to the American Lung Association (ALA).

But oftentimes it’s too late. The ALA reports that only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are detected in their early stages for a disease that has a five-year survival rate of 17.8 percent and causes more deaths than any other form of cancer in the United States.

The Lung Cancer Screening Program at the Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Northwest is looking to change that. The Center offers low-dose CT (LDCT), the only screening test studied and shown to reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer in high-risk populations, according to the ALA.

The cost of an LDCT scan is covered in full by Medicare beneficiaries once per year for those who meet all of the following criteria from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:

  • Are age 55-77, and are either current smokers or have quit smoking within the last 15 years
  • Have a tobacco smoking history of at least 30 “pack years” (an average of one pack a day for 30 years)
  • Receive a written order from a physician or qualified non-physician practitioner that meets certain requirements

“LDCT has proven to be the most effective tool in detecting lung cancer before symptoms persist,” said Vinod Bhuchar, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Hermann Northwest and an oncologist affiliated with the Center. “Without this screening, lung cancer is very hard to detect and very, very hard to treat in its later stages. Early detection with LDCT can reduce the chance of death by 20 percent in high-risk patients.”

The Center’s lung cancer program relies on a multidisciplinary approach, advanced imaging technology and minimally-invasive procedures to identify and treat patients with lung nodules. The goal is to detect lung nodules and potential lung cancer at an early stage when the disease is more treatable and curable.

An LDCT lung screening takes detailed pictures inside of the lungs in less than 10 minutes and does not require additional medications or the use of needles.

It has been estimated that up to 90 percent of all lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. In addition to cigarette smoking, cigar smoking and frequent exposure to secondhand smoke for non-smokers increases risk. Other risk factors include: exposure to asbestos, radon, or ionizing radiation and lung scarring from chronic infections.

To schedule a screening at the Center, call Memorial Hermann Northwest at 713-867-3350, go online to memorialhermann.org/northwest, or visit at 1635 North Loop West, Houston, TX 77008 on the 610 service road just before Ella Blvd in the Greater Heights.