Archive for ‘Smoking’

February 9, 2015

Medicare: A Life-Saving Screening Now Covered

CT chestThis past week brought great news for Medicare patients! Medicare is now covering the cost of low-dose screening CT chests in selected patients. Screening with low-dose CT chest has been shown to save lives with the ability to diagnose lung cancer when it is small and more treatable.

Here are the details:

WHO is covered?

  •         Must be between 55 and 77 years of age
  •         Must be a current smoker or have quit smoking in the past 15 years
  •         Must have smoked the equivalent of 30 pack years (that means 1 pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs per day for 15 years, or any other such combination)

WHAT steps are needed for coverage?

  •         Must have a  visit with their referring physician or nurse practitioner prior to the CT for “a shared-decision making/smoking cessation counseling session prior to being referred for their first screening exam.” This is not needed for studies after the first.
  •         Must have an order from the doctor or nurse practitioner.

HOW is the test done?

  •         This is a quick,  non-contrast CT of the chest done with low dose.
  •         This is part of a total program to reduce lung cancer risk, including the most important part – a goal of smoking cessation.
  •         The test is a screening test – meaning, if something is found (about 10% of the time) something else may be recommended – this could mean further imaging, including a CT chest with contrast, PET imaging or short-term follow up CT studies, or could mean a lung biopsy.
  •         This is intended to be repeated annually.
  •         Sites providing coverage must meet many requirements, including specifications on dose and follow-up of patients.

The possibility of decreasing the number of deaths from lung cancer by getting patients into a screening program is exciting.

 

If you or someone you know fits the above criteria, get an appointment with your doctor.  If it’s a loved one, you may be the voice that prompts their action!

 

Screening of smokers with low-dose CT chest is a huge leap forward in the fight against lung cancer.

 

 

 

Diagnostic Imaging Centers blogs on regularly about women’s health at www.mammographykc.com and general radiology at www.diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com. Visit our sites for more helpful information!

July 7, 2014

7 Resources for Quitting Smoking

Kicking the Habit!We talk a good game about vascular health and lung screenings… however, we realize that for many the difficulties of winning the war against tobacco are not easy. We can say “quit smoking”, but without offering suggestions for help in the fight, the words can seem hollow (and more than a little naggy!).

 

The great news is this: many tools and systems exist to help pave the way to tobacco-free healthier lungs and bodies. From mobile phone apps (many of which are free!), to encouraging support groups to some basic tips and tricks, help is just around the corner, or in the palm of your hand.

 

Both the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association websites have “how-to” resources for quitting smoking. Additionally, here are some useful phone apps we’d like to highlight:

 

  • SmokeFree Teen is available for the younger set – not starting is MUCH easier than quitting, and quitting is easier when the addiction is still young.

 

 

  • SmokeFreeTXT was created by the National Cancer Institute and uses text messages which pop up anytime, day or night. Additionally, the NCI has created a “Live Help” chat service to interact with as well. Chat here.

 

  • And, if you’re old-school and prefer to reach out for help on the phone, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) is there for you too!

 

  • Don’t forget your doctor – your physician can help you determine which is the best quitting strategy for you – including whether medications might be of help.

 

The most important step is the hardest first step deciding now is the time to take action. So, make the step, set a date for quitting – today is always good!- and know that the benefits begin immediately. Within hours your carbon monoxide levels drop and within a day your risk of heart attack decreases!

 

Whatever your method for prying yourself away from the pack, we’d be happy to hear about your success! Please share your successes with us on Twitter: @dic_kc! Best of luck and here’s to your best possible health!

 

(Image credit: No Smoking – American Cancer Society’s Great American Smoke Out by U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Brittany Perry via Wikimedia Commons Copyright Public Domain)

 

Diagnostic Imaging Centers blogs on regularly about women’s health atwww.mammographykc.com and general radiology atwww.diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com. Visit our sites for more helpful information!

 

May 1, 2014

Lung Cancer Screening and (New) Recommendations

smoking kills by André Hengst via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)When it comes to cancer, lung cancer leads the list of the most deadly for men and women in the US. Fighting this disease has been an uphill battle, impeded by the fact that most patients are not diagnosed until late in their disease. Having an effective screening test to identify lung cancer when it is small and treatable has been a goal for years – the development of low-dose CT chest for the screening for lung cancer has brought hope.

 

We are therefore profoundly disappointed that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)’s Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee (MEDCAC) did not vote to recommend Medicare coverage of low-dose CT screening. Their primary concern is not that is does not find cancer, but that it will find too many things that are not cancer.

 

We disagree with the CMS, as do other (more important!) groups in the US. The United States Preventative Services Task Force (their statement can be found here) recently recommended coverage. This is critical, as those preventive services deemed appropriate by the Task Force are mandated to be covered under the Affordable Care Act. What does that mean? A double standard – those with health insurance will be covered, those with Medicare will not if the CMS acts on the recommendations of their advisory committee.

 

One of the (many!) advocates of low-dose CT screening is the American College of Radiology (their statement can be found here). The ACR supports the use of screening CT chests in those patients at the highest risk – in other words, heavy smokers or heavy former smokers. The National Lung Screening Trial found that there was a 20% reduction in deaths for heavy smokers due to screening (the trial report can be found here). That’s no small number. The ACR is working on developing uniform guidelines to help with interpretation and to reduce the number of false findings – those that seemed to concern the Advisory Committee.

 

Luckily, the CMS is not bound by the recommendations of MEDCAC and action based on the recommendation isn’t expected until late fall of this year. We hope that reevaluation of the data occurs between now and then, so that Medicare patients are covered.

 

If you’d like to know more about lung cancer and what you can do about it, we recommend checking out Free to Breathe. Eliminating the use of tobacco is a larger goal which will more profoundly affect lung cancer in the US – if you smoke, get help to stop.

Imagine attribution: smoking kills by André Hengst via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Diagnostic Imaging Centers blogs on regularly about women’s health atwww.mammographykc.com and general radiology atwww.diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com. Visit our sites for more helpful information!

February 25, 2014

Task Force Guidelines on Aorta Screening in Smokers

Vincent Willem van Gogh (self portrait) Copyright Public Domain

Vincent Willem van Gogh (self portrait) Copyright Public Domain

This is a call to older male smokers. As a smoker you are at risk for many health issues. While heart and lung conditions are the more commonly known diseases for smokers, vascular diseases are another. Abdominal aortic aneurysm, or “AAA,” is yet another significant health issue that may be seen with higher frequency in smokers. An aneurysm is an abnormal ballooning or dilatation of a blood vessel. In this case, the aneurysm involves the aorta – the main artery carrying blood to the abdomen and lower body. As the aneurysm gets bigger, there is a risk of sudden death from rupture.

Recently the USPSTF, a task force that reviews guidelines and screening studies, came forward with a recommendation with the intention of saving lives. The Task Force has issued a recommendation for ultrasound screening of male smokers over the age of 65 for the presence of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Further research is needed to determine the usefulness of the screening test both in women who smoke and in older male non-smokers.

Making use of the simple non-invasive technology of ultrasound, one-time screenings for men in the high risk category will help improve survival from complications of abdominal aortic aneurysm. For more on the recommendation, we recommend this resource.