MGH uses low-dose CT scans to detect lung cancer

A CT, or computed tomography, scan is a quick, non–invasive way to detect internal ailments or injuries, but it carries a risk for some patients.

“You can use a regular CT, but the issue that we’re concerned about is radiation, so basically, this is a screening tool that we use, and it’s a low dose,” Marquette General Hospital radiologist Dr. Kevin Gostenik said.

A low-dose CT still involves lying down on a platform, but the scan only uses about 25% of the radiation that a regular CT uses.

Marquette General has become the first hospital in the U.P. to offer low-dose CT scans as a lung cancer screening tool. They’ve performed 20 to 25 of them in the last few months. Some of those patients have had abnormalities detected early as a result.

“That’s what the hope of it us, that we’re going to detect early cancers,” Dr. Gostenik said. “There’s a specific population that this is targeted to. It’s for patients that are between 55 and 80. If you have a significant smoking history, or if you continue to smoke or have quit within the last 15 years, then this is something that you may want to consider.”

Insurance providers don’t cover low-dose CT scans yet, but Gostenik believes that’ll eventually change.

“This doesn’t always happen overnight, but the hope is eventually that the insurance will cover it,” he said. “If, in the event that something is found that’s abnormal on the initial screening, then the subsequent scans are covered by insurance.”

A low-dose CT scan at Marquette General costs $200, or about as much as it costs to smoke a pack a day for a month.