EAU CLAIRE — According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast or prostate cancers combined. An estimated 160,000 people will die from lung cancer each year. To help with the early detection of lung cancer, Mayo Clinic Health System has expanded low-dose computerized tomography (CT) scanning to locations across northwest Wisconsin.
Up until now, the Lung Screening Program has been available to patients throughout northwest Wisconsin, but the low-dose CT scan could only be performed in Eau Claire. Those scans now can be performed at Mayo Clinic Health System sites in Barron, Bloomer, Menomonie, Osseo and Rice Lake.
Without screening, catching lung cancer early enough to improve outcomes is difficult.
“People who have lung cancer often don’t even know it,” says pulmonologist Adel Zurob, M.D. “Symptoms of cough, chest pain, coughing up blood or weight loss may not appear until the cancer is in a late stage.”
The process starts with a simple phone call with a pulmonary specialist to determine whether the patient qualifies for screening. Patients from outside of Eau Claire who qualify for screening will then participate in a telemedicine shared-decision visit to discuss pros and cons of screening. A low-dose CT scan can then be completed at the Mayo Clinic Health System location that is most convenient for the patient.
“Offering telemedicine visits and low-dose CT scans at multiple locations eliminates distance barriers and improves access to this program for patients who live in rural or distant communities,” says Dr. Zurob. “In all cancers, and especially in lung cancer, time is life. The earlier cancer is found, the more likely that person will survive.”
Since the program started in northwest Wisconsin in February 2015, 416 patients have been referred, and 243 have completed their low-dose CT scans. Of this group, eight received a confirmed lung cancer diagnosis.
The Lung Screening Program also is available at Mayo Clinic’s Arizona, Florida and Rochester campuses, and Mayo Clinic Health System locations in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Mankato, Minnesota.
The screening is covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Check with your insurance plan regarding coverage; a flat fee is available if insurance doesn’t cover this screening. Speak with your primary care provider or call Pulmonology at 715-838-6593 if you are interested in the Lung Screening Program.