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Low-dose CT scans to screen for lung cancer in smokers: what you need to know

The statistics tell their own saddening story about the extremely strong, and established, connection between lung cancer and smoking. More than seven in every 10 cases of lung cancer can be attributed to smoking, and those who smoke more than 25 cigarettes a day are over 25 times more likely to get lung cancer than someone who does not smoke.

When you consider this data alongside the fact that, as of present, seven in 10 lung cancers are diagnosed too late for cure, you can probably begin to appreciate just how critically important the early detection of these cancers can be.

If lung cancer can be checked for, detected, and diagnosed at an earlier stage for everyone who is likely to be at particular risk of this disease, the subsequent treatment of this condition is likely to be simpler and more successful.

With all this in mind, if you are a smoker and begin to experience some of the symptoms that are typically associated with lung cancer – such as a cough that persists for more than three weeks, persistent breathlessness, and/or an ache or pain when coughing – you may be grateful for the services of a facility that can help investigate the source of the issue.

Here at GibMed International Hospital, we take great pride in our ability to provide the highest standard of diagnostic imaging in Gibraltar, including in relation to respiratory health.

What is a low-dose CT scan, and how could it help detect lung cancer?

If you have been looking into your options for lung cancer screening, you are likely to have already come across the initials “CT”, which stand for computed tomography.

A CT scan is a kind of medical imaging test that produces images of inside the body from various angles. Typically, when a CT scan is carried out, a specialist doctor known as a radiologist will study the images that are produced, and identify health issues that might not have otherwise been visible. This, in turn, enables the correct treatment and care to be provided.

CT scanning constitutes a “gold standard” for imaging of the lungs. This helps to make it an invaluable procedure when screening for conditions such as lung cancer, in patients who may be experiencing worrying symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath.

The ionising radiation delivered by a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) is 90% less than a standard CT scan. This particular test, which is non-invasive (not requiring any surgery or injections), involves the use of a spiral or helical CT scan to create highly detailed and well-defined 3D images of the lungs.

Indeed, such is the level of information that a low-dose CT scan can uncover, it is able to pick out lung abnormalities as small as a grain of rice. By comparison, a traditional X-ray is normally only able to identify abnormalities that are larger than a penny.

Could a low-dose CT scan be the right option for you?

As the scans use radiation in the form of X-rays, it is important to recognise that they are not entirely risk-free. However, the amount of radiation used is very small, and it has not been shown that any long-term harm is caused by the low doses required for screening tests.

It is believed that the benefits of low-dose CT scanning in at-risk patients generally outweigh any increased risk that may arise from radiation exposure.

The early detection of lung cancer can greatly help to improve the efficacy of treatment and save lives. According to data from the UK NHS, with every lung cancer screening, a patient lowers their risk of dying from lung cancer by 25%. This is because cancers are typically more treatable when they are spotted at an earlier stage of their development in the body.

Here at GibMed International Hospital, we have two Consultant General Internal Physicians who deal with respiratory problems, Dr Waqar Haider and Dr Isabella Bassill. They work alongside our highly qualified and capable imaging team, to offer you peace of mind when you undergo imaging investigations in Gibraltar.

Contact GibMed today for further information and advice

If you have been experiencing concerning symptoms in relation to your lungs, or if you are or have been a smoker and are concerned about your lung health, please don’t hesitate to contact us for an appointment with one of our specialists today. Dr Bassill or Dr Haider will be able to assess the suitability of low-dose CT scanning in your case, and – if appropriate – organise this for you.

Our lung health checks are aimed at current or ex-smokers aged from 50 to 80, and are based on UK and US guidance on the early detection of lung cancer.

To give you an indication of how likely you are to be offered a scan, out of 100 smokers and ex-smokers between the ages of 55 to 74 in the UK, an average of 54 are recommended to have a scan. Of these patients, an average of two will be diagnosed with lung cancer.

If you have any questions about our lung health checks, low-dose CT scans, or any other aspect of our diagnostic imaging in Gibraltar, please do not hesitate to enquire to the professional and friendly GibMed team today.