Should You Get A Chest Cat Scan?

For years, physicians have tried to figure out a way to screen for lungcancer in people who are or have been smoking. In the past we have tried everything from xrays to testingthe sputum for cancer cells. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to be able to find the cancer early enough to get a cure.

There was a somewhat controvercial articl in the New England Journal of Medicne magazine last week. The article was about a study that included about 31,000 people who smoked and had chest cat scan, which is a type of xray. The study suggests that getting a cat scan would find many cancers in their early stages.

Finding a cancer early on can be literally life saving in this case. In fact, the study indicated that about 80-90% of the people who had a cancer detected this early would still be alive 10 years later. That's way better than the 5% rate we tell people today.

There is lots of debate going on around this, but many of us feel there is enough data to support getting chest cat scans on our patients who smoke. The test is actually called a "spiral cat scan" of the chest and it runs around $200.00. Ever since this article came out I have begun ordering these and have not had an insurance company refuse to pay for one.

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About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.