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September 7, 2012
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate launches Lung Cancer Screening Program

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—The Upstate Cancer Center will begin a lung cancer screening program that will use low-dose CT scans to detect the smallest possible tumor and that will provide doctors with the opportunity to begin treating lung cancer in its early stages.

A recent landmark national study, published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that using low-dose CT scans can detect tumors early and reduce lung cancer mortality by up to 20 percent in high-risk smokers and ex-smokers.

“The best hope for curing lung cancer is finding it as early as possible,” said Leslie Kohman, MD, medical director for the Upstate Cancer Center. “But historically, it has been difficult to detect small tumors in the lung and begin early treatment.” Kohman also serves as a member of the Upstate Medical University faculty and, with Ernest Scalzetti, MD, chief of radiology, has done extensive research on the use of low-dose CT scan in the detection of lung cancer.

Kohman said Upstate now possesses the technology necessary to perform low-dose CT scans. A special dose-reduction software installed on a dedicated CT scan machine allows the lowest possible dose of radiation to give quality images.

“This low dose CT scan is sensitive enough to detect the smallest, earliest lung cancers before they can be detected on a normal chest x-ray, and that gives physicians a head start on treating this cancer,” Kohman said.

The CT scan takes 20 seconds and provides clinicians with a clear image of the lung, enabling them to detect very small lung nodules that may be early signs of lung cancer.

Currently the scan is not covered by insurance. The test costs about $235 and includes the scan, a CD with the images of the scan, extensive counseling on smoking cessation, if needed, and notification of scan results with a primary care physician. Assistance and referrals will be provided as needed for any follow up care required.

The Lung Cancer Screening Program, which is sponsored by the Upstate Cancer Center and Upstate Radiology, is targeted for people between the ages of 55 and 74 who have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. Individuals who no longer smoke, can be screened, but they must have quit smoking within the last 15 years to be eligible.

Upstate has had extensive experience with low-dose CT scans in the use of lung cancer detection.

In 2001, Upstate was one of 12 sites in New York state to participate in the New York Early Lung Cancer Action screening study, which showed significant benefit of low dose scans in detecting cancer tumors.

To make an appointment for the screening, call Upstate Connect at 315-464-8668.

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