University of Colorado Hospital Now Offering Lung Cancer Screening

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Just in time for Lung Cancer Awareness Month, University of Colorado Hospital is now offering a lung cancer screening program designed to catch cancerous tumors as early as possible and potentially save patients’ lives.

Dr. Peter Sachs

Just in time for Lung Cancer Awareness Month, University of Colorado Hospital is now offering a lung cancer screening program designed to catch cancerous tumors as early as possible and potentially save patients’ lives. Lung cancer accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths in America, killing more than 150,000 people a year. If lung cancer is detected early, the number of deaths can be reduced.

Screening is open to patients referred by their physicians who meet the following criteria:

  • Current or former smokers who quit < 15 years ago
  • Between the ages of 55 and 74
  • Smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (this means 1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
  • No personal history of lung cancer

Medicare recently announced plans to start covering the screening for eligible patients, and many private insurance plans already pay for lung cancer screening.

The recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan). In this test, an X-ray machine scans the body and uses low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of the lungs, often enabling detection of tumors before someone experiences symptoms. The test is not recommended for everyone, however, and it has risks as well as benefits.

“I believe our lung cancer screening program will save lives,” says Dr. Peter Sachs, associate professor of radiology and chief of thoracic imaging, University of Colorado Hospital. “Studies have clearly shown that individuals at high risk for lung cancer should receive this low-dose CT scan every year because it can help catch lung cancer in the earliest stages. That’s important, because while the 5-year survival rate for stage IV lung cancer is 7% at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, the survival rate here for stage I lung cancer is over 50%.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the country and the second most diagnosed cancer in both women and men. The survival rate for every stage of lung cancer is substantially lower than for other major cancers such as breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Five-year lung cancer survival rates at the CU Cancer Center are significantly better than both state and national averages. The survival rate for stage IV lung cancer is 2% nationally and 7% at the CU Cancer Center.

The National Cancer Institute’s Lung Cancer Screening Trial established that lung cancer mortality in specific high-risk groups could be reduced by these annual screenings.

“These screenings often find non-cancerous nodules in patients’ lungs that should be monitored over time,” said Dr. Stephen Malkoski, MD, PhD, associate professor, Pulmonary Sciences & Critical Care, University of Colorado Cancer Center. “For that reason, we have integrated our lung cancer screening program into our Lung Nodule Clinic. We’re able to track those nodules from year to year and will quickly discover any changes. This is good news for patients because cancerous tumors can be treated quickly without unnecessary procedures to remove non-cancerous lung nodules.”

For patients without insurance coverage, University of Colorado Hospital offers a self-pay discounted rate of $301. Screenings are available for any patient who meets the criteria for a heavy smoker with a physician referral.

For more information please call 855-586-4824 or 720-557-7171.

About the University of Colorado Hospital
University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region's leading academic medical center. UCH is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to the patients’ bedside. University HealthSystem Consortium named UCH the #1 Academic Medical Center in quality in the nation in both 2011 and 2012, and U.S. News & World Report named University of Colorado Hospital the best hospital in Colorado in 2012, 2013 and 2014. UCH is one of five Colorado hospitals that make up University of Colorado Health. The hospital’s physicians are affiliated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system. Based on the expansive Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, CO, the hospital is where patient care, research and education converge to establish the future of health care delivery.

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Dan Weaver
University of Colorado Hospital
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