Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I receive my lung cancer care at WellStar West Georgia Medical Center?
• You can receive comprehensive, state-of-the-art diagnostic testing and treatment, close to your home.
• You will have personal contact by our lung navigator throughout the management of your lung nodule.
• You'll receive customized patient and family education, an individualized plan of care, and management of all visits, scans and any procedures for follow-up and diagnosis.
• Smoking cessation support will also be offered.
• Your plan of care will ALWAYS be communicated to your primary care physician. Also, there is coordination of care with multiple specialties, including Pulmonology, Radiology, Thoracic Surgery, Medical Oncology and Radiation Oncology. If appropriate, cases may be presented at the STAT clinic.
• Evaluation, diagnosis and recommendations are guided by the American College of Chest Physicians Guidelines (ACCP).
• Our goal is prompt diagnosis and expedited care using state of the art technology and evidence based medicine for successful treatment and outcome.
Do I qualify?
Lung cancer screening is quick and easy. You may qualify for a low-dose CT lung cancer screening if you meet all of these criteria:
• You are between 55 and 77 years old.
• You have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer.
• You are a current smoker or have quit within the last 15 years.
• You have smoked the equivalent of at least one pack a day for 30 years.
• OR, you may qualify if you have other high-risk features.
If you qualify, you will need a referral from your doctor in order to be screened. We are happy to help you obtain this referral. If you do not have a primary care physician, our lung cancer navigator, Lori McClung (706.812.2808) can help you.
What if I have no symptoms?
Lung cancer is a silent killer. Most patients with symptoms have advanced lung cancer, which is why screening is so important. Be screened before symptoms appear to lower your risk by as much as 20 percent.
Can I receive a lung screen if I'm not a smoker?
Not all individuals are known to be at high risk for lung cancer. The National Lung Study Trial guarantees we are adhering to evidence-based medicine in our Lung Screening Clinic. The study looked carefully at risks and benefits associated with screening and determined the greatest benefit of screening is for individuals older than 55 years of age with a history of heavy smoking within the last 15 years. This population is at greatest risk of developing lung cancer. Currently, to enter WellStar West Georgia Medical Center's Lung Screening program, individuals must meet Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recommendations.
How effective is low-dose CT lung screening at preventing death from lung cancer?
Studies have shown that low-dose CT lung screening can lower the risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent in people who are at high risk.
What is the cost?
Medicare covers low-dose CT lung cancer screenings for people who meet the eligibility criteria, and the Affordable Care Act requires that private insurers to cover CT lung screening for those at high risk. WellStar Health System also offers assistance for non-insured patients. Call WGMC's lung health navigator, Lynn Cleveland, at 706-845-3792 for more information.
What can I expect to happen when I get a screening?
A low-dose CT scan is a quick, painless and non-invasive approach to screen for lung cancer. This type of CT scan uses no dyes, no injections, and requires nothing to swallow by mouth.
The CT scan provides the clearest image of the lung tissue. The purpose of the exam is to look for lung nodules. Nodules are common, and about 97 percent are noncancerous. However, a nodule can represent early lung cancer.
If a nodule is found, our radiologists will decide if it has any worrisome features. Often a team decision is also made with pulmonary and oncology experts. Then they will determine whether follow-up imaging or other tests are necessary. Every case is different and is given personalized attention.
Are there any risks to having a low-dose CT lung screening?
There are several risks and limitations to a low-dose CT lung screening. We want to make sure we have done a good job explaining these to you, so please let us know if you have any questions. A complete list of risks is included on the consent form. Your healthcare provider who ordered the screening may want to talk with you more about the risks listed below.
Radiation exposure: A low-dose CT lung screening uses radiation to create images of your lung. Radiation can increase a person's risk of cancer. By using special techniques, the amount of radiation in a low-dose CT lung screening is small – about the normal amount received from the sun in a year. Further, your physician has determined the benefits of the screening outweigh the risks of being exposed to the small amount of radiation from this exam.
False negatives: No test, including the low-dose CT lung screening, is perfect. It is possible that you may have a medical condition, including lung cancer, that is not found during your exam. This is called a false negative.
False positives/additional testing: A low-dose CT lung screening often finds something in the lung that could be cancer but in fact is not. This is called a false positive and can cause anxiety. To make sure these findings are not cancer, you may need to have more tests. These tests will be performed only if you give us permission. Occasionally, patients need a procedure, such as a biopsy, that can have potential side effects. For more information on false positives, see “What can I expect from the results?”
Findings not related to lung cancer: Your low-dose CT lung screening exam also captures images of areas of your body next to your lungs. In a small percentage of cases (5 percent to 10 percent) the CT scan will show an abnormal finding in one of these areas, such as your kidneys, adrenal glands, liver, heart vessels or thyroid. This finding may not be serious, but you may need to be examined further. Your healthcare provider who ordered your exam can help determine what, if any, additional testing you need.
What is a lung nodule?
A pulmonary nodule is an abnormality in the lung that is smaller than 3 cm (slightly larger than an inch) in diameter. Generally, a pulmonary nodule must grow to at least 1 cm (the size of a pea) in diameter before it can be seen on a chest x-ray. CT Scans can detect nodules less than 1 cm in size.
Pulmonary nodules are surrounded by normal lung tissue and are not associated with any other abnormality in the lung or nearby lymph nodes. Please consider:
• People with a lung nodule or nodule(s) do not experience symptoms.
• Lung nodules are usually found by chance on a chest x-ray or CT scan taken for another reason.
• Lung nodules are one of the most common abnormalities seen on radiographic images.
• Approximately 150,000 cases are detected every year, on x-ray films or CT scans.
• Most lung nodules are benign (noncancerous); however, they may represent an early stage of primary lung cancer.
Determining whether the lung nodule is benign or malignant is important. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of early lung cancer, presenting as a lung nodule, may be the only chance to cure the cancer.
When will I get my results?
Our CT reporting has a very quick turnaround. Within 72 hours, you will be notified of your lung screening results. In addition, each individual will have their report sent to their primary care provider (PCP). You will be notified of your results either by your PCP or by the WellStar WGMC lung navigator, according to your physician’s preference.
Will my doctor also receive the results?
Yes. Your health care provider who ordered your exam will receive a copy of your results.
How do you manage my lung screening findings?
A follow up screening or treatment plan will be recommended based on individual patients findings. The WellStar WGMC lung navigator, Lynn Cleveland, will facilitate scheduling and a follow-up plan and will have ongoing communication with you and your physician throughout your participation in the program.
Do I need to have a low-dose CT lung screening exam every year?
Yes. If you are in one of the high-risk groups, a low-dose CT lung screening exam is recommended every year until you are 77 years old.
Is there a national support system?
Yes. Please visit the Lung Cancer Alliance website.
Where can I learn more about lung cancer and screening?
National Comprehensive Cancer Network
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (lung cancer screening eligibility and recommendations)
Medicare (lung cancer screening, including coverage, eligibility and cost)
American Lung Association
National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society
American Thoracic Society
American Society of Clinical Oncology
WellStar West Georgia Medical Center does not assume responsibility for any of the information posted on the websites listed above.
Where can I find help to quit smoking?
The best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking. For help on quitting smoking, please call our lung health navigator, Lori McClung, at 706.812.2808, and she will be glad to send you free resources to assist you. If you have already quit smoking, congratulations, and keep it up!
I think I qualify for low-dose CT lung screening. What should I do next?
For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact your lung health navigator, Lori McClung, at 706.812.2808. Please note that we will need an order for a low-dose CT lung screening from your health care provider before your exam. Your lung cancer navigator will help facilitate and guide you.