Lung Cancer Screening Program

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with more than 220,000 people diagnosed each year. Of those, approximately 150,000 will die from the disease. Furthermore, Maine’s lung cancer rates are an astonishing 30% higher than the national average.

Early detection is key. Seventy-five percent of cancer cases in Maine are detected too late and, as a result, are less likely to be curable. Thanks to the Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center's Lung Cancer Screening Program, we’re helping Maine people discover potential issues earlier, resulting in more treatment options, and leading to brighter, healthier, better outcomes.

There IS good news!
Knowing how lung cancer is affecting our Maine neighbors, and in our ongoing quest to make healthcare work for the people of our state, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center is proud to bring a new standard of care to Maine with our Lung Cancer Screening Program. Our comprehensive program takes a hands-on approach to patient care, employing a nurse navigator to assist patients as needed. The screening process consists of:

  • An evaluation to determine a person’s risk for lung cancer
  • Education and counseling about lung cancer screening and Low Dose “CAT scan” (LDCT)
  • LDCT scan and interpretation of results
  • Follow-up testing and treatment based on scan results
  • Referral to smoking cessation counseling and treatment resources
  • Keeping your PCP updated on results and recommendations

To make the process more convenient for people in rural areas who may be at risk of lung cancer, Eastern Maine Medical Center is partnering with hospitals in smaller communities, allowing patients to have their low-dose CT scan done closer to home. Once complete, the Medical Center takes it from there, handling everything from tracking appointments to working with the patient’s local primary care physician (PCP). Contact our office to find out if your local hospital is a partner in our program.

So how do I know if I am at risk?
Lung cancer screening might be right for you if:
  • You are between 50 and 80 years of age;
  • You are a current, heavy smoker or former smoker within the last 15 years;
  • You are currently healthy, showing no signs or symptoms of lung cancer;
  • You have a history of smoking the equivalent of at least one pack per day for 20 years (see calculation below).

A “heavy smoker” is defined as someone with a pack-year history of at least 20 years. Examples include:
  • 1 pack per day X 20 years = 20-year pack history
  • 2 packs per day X 10 years = 20-year pack history
  • ½ pack per day for 40 years = 20-year-pack history

Estimate your Pack Year history using this handy calculator

Please note: we recommend that you check with your provider and your insurance company to confirm whether a lung cancer screening may be right for you.

For more information or questions about our Lung Cancer Screening Program please call 207.973.5822.

To learn more about what's involved and how you can schedule a screening, click our "Patient Information" menu, below.
Lung cancer screening is similar to other diagnostic screenings such as mammograms or colonoscopies. Early detection and diagnosis of lung cancer improves survival rates. As stated earlier, 75 percent of lung cancer diagnosis in our state are diagnosed at late stages with no treatment options available. 
What does a Lung Cancer Screening entail?
Lung cancer screening is done through a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) to identify any lung nodules. The LDCT is Sources of radiationreviewed and recommendations are made by the radiologist. If normal, LDCT's are repeated annually until you no longer meet the qualifications. If a nodule is identified, you may be asked to repeat the scan in three-to-six (3-6) months, or you may be referred to a specialist.

CT scans are a noninvasive image of your chest. There are no needles involved. The scan takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. During the scan you will be exposed to a small amount of radiation, far less that what the average person is exposed to over the course of any given year. See the graphic at right for helpful information. Note: At this time, it is unknown how radiation from diagnostic testing impacts our health.
It's never too late to kick the habit.
If you are a smoker and want to quit, the benefits are almost instantaneous:
When a smoker quits

If you are interested in quitting smoking, the Lung Cancer Screening Program team is here to support you; however, it is not required to participate in the screening program. Of course, quitting smoking doesn’t just reduce your risk of developing lung cancer; it also greatly improves your overall health.
Will my insurance cover the cost of a screening?

Most insurance plans cover LDCT for lung cancer screening if you meet the criteria. Our staff will work with your insurance company to obtain approval for the CT scan and your appointment with our office.

OK. I’m sold. So what can I expect during my screening?
Before: You will meet with your healthcare provider to discuss the benefits and risks of screening. This is called a shared decision-making visit. You and your provider will make the decision about screening together. If you decide on screening, your healthcare provider will create a written order and refer you to a screening location. This location may be a hospital or another facility that offers LDCT screening. Your  provider’s office may make an appointment for you, or a screening location will contact you to set up your appointment.

During: Limited preparation may be needed. You shouldn’t need to change your clothes, as long as they don’t contain metal. Don’t worry—there are no medicines or needles required for the screening. The LDCT procedure only takes a few minutes. You will lie still on your back on a table with your arms over your head while pictures are taken of your lungs.

After: A specialist will read your scan and report the results. Someone from the screening location or your healthcare team will call you to talk about the results.

For more information or questions about our Lung Cancer Screening Program please call 207.973.5822.

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Primary Care Providers and pulmonologists serve a crucial role identifying and referring patients to lung cancer screening programs. Eligible patients are 50-80 years old, former smoker who has quit in the last 15 years or an active smoker who has a pack year history of at least 20 years, currently shows no signs and symptoms of cancer, and hasn’t been treated with antibiotics for a respiratory infection in the last 12 weeks.

Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center’s lung cancer screening program uses an organized multidisciplinary approach to lung cancer screening including shared decision-making visit with the patient, smoking cessation counseling, utilization of established protocols for evaluating and treating concerning lesions identified on screening CTs, maintenance of a registry to follow the outcomes for all screened patients, and ongoing collaboration with referring provider about results and the next steps. Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center is a well-established, high volume center for thoracic malignancies with excellent results and an emphasis on patient safety. Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center intends to meet or exceed the institutional requirements set forward by CMS with regard to quality and reimbursement, including special training for interpreting radiologists and participation in a national registration database.
Shared Decision-Making
A four-step process for shared decision-making which includes exploring and comparing the possible benefits and harms of each option has been developed to help providers have meaningful dialogue about what matters most to a patient:
  1. Seek your patient’s participation in the decision-making process.
  2. Help your patient explore and compare the positional benefits and harms of lung cancer screenings and assess your patient’s level of understanding.
  3. Assess your patient’s values and preferences about lung cancer screening.
  4. Reach a decision about lung cancer screening with your patient..

In addition to a dedicated Lung Cancer Screening Program, a separate multidisciplinary board (Thoracic Oncology Conference or TOC) consisting of radiologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pulmonologists, pathologists and thoracic surgeons meets weekly to discuss complex thoracic oncology cases. The importance of a program navigator was recognized early in the development of our Lung Cancer Screening program and is available to be of assistance to you and your patient at all times.

Appropriateness for referral to a lung cancer screening program should be addressed at all wellness visits, same as mammograms and colonoscopies. With increased referrals in lung cancer screening we can increase 5-year survival rates.

Lung Cancer Survival Rates

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