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Smokers Can Quit With Help Of CT Lung Scan

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A CT lung scan might be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to quitting smoking. Studies show that people who get a lung scan are more likely to quit smoking.

"I've seen it happen here at our center, and there are studies that clearly back up our experience," said Marc Kahn, M.D., medical director of EBT Heart & Body Imaging in Detroit. "Patients make a direct, visual connection between their lungs and their health. It's a big motivator, and can serve as a wake-up call to quit smoking and cut the risk of lung cancer and other diseases."

Kahn's center exclusively uses the EBCT -- or electron beam computed tomography -- because of its low radiation, high-speed technology that offers clearer, more detailed imaging than spiral CT scans. EBCT is the only proven method of detecting early plaque buildup in the coronary arteries, and can best handle the motion associated with the heart and lungs.

Research shows that smokers who get lung scans are at least twice as likely to quit smoking as individuals who do not get a scan. A 2003 Mayo Clinic study(1) showed that 14 percent of smokers in the study had stopped smoking one year after being screened, about double the average annual smoking cessation rate. Even more powerful was a study from the ongoing International Early Lung Cancer Action Project (I-ELCAP) that reported nearly 25 percent of those who received a CT lung scan quit smoking.

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In addition to motivating people to quit, Kahn said early detection saves lives.

"Published clinical trials have shown that by screening all smokers, cure rates can be as high as 95 percent, but lung cancer is still the only major cancer for which screening is not encouraged, even among those at high risk," said Kahn.

Unfortunately, under current medical guidelines, patients are typically only referred for CT lung scans if they have symptoms indicative of possible cancer. Preventive-minded patients without a physician's referral can purchase an EBCT lung scan for $300.

Kahn maintains that the current wait and see approach toward lung cancer is a losing strategy, and low dose CT screening could dramatically improve 5-year survival rates. Current lung cancer 5-year survival rates hover around a dismal 15 percent.

The EBCT lung scan alone is usually conducted either with a physician's referral or because a patient has a particular concern regarding their lungs. After the scan is complete, a report is sent to the patient and doctor with follow-up suggestions for any abnormalities.