Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer among men and women in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, remember that quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Overall, it will make you feel better and give you more energy to live life boldly. It’s also a good time to talk about lung cancer and lung cancer screening. The ApexHealth team gives you the help you need for the life you lead, including these four things to remember.
1. Be aware of risk factors
The number one risk factor for lung cancer is cigarette smoking, and it’s linked to 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths says the CDC. Those who quit smoking have a lower risk than those who still smoke but have a higher risk than those who have never smoked. But of course, quitting smoking at any age can help lower your risk. Additional lung cancer risk factors include:
- Secondhand smoke
- Radon exposure over time
- Exposure to other substances such as asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust and some forms of chromium or silica
- Personal of family history of lung cancer
- Radiation therapy to the chest
- Arsenic and radon in drinking water (from private wells)
2. Get screened for lung cancer
The recommended screening test for lung cancer is known as low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). It’s a short, painless procedure where you lie on a table and an x-ray machine, using a low amount of radiation, takes detailed images of your lungs. It’s recommended that you get screened annually if you meet the following criteria:
- A 20 pack-year or more smoking history
- If you smoke now or have quit in the past 15 years
- Are between age 50 and 80
Note that pack-year means smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes each day for one year. The CDC says this means “a person could have a 20 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years.”
3. Questions about lung cancer screening? Always ask your doctor
There are risks for lung cancer screening. This is why it’s recommended that you have a conversation with your doctor if you’re thinking about getting screened. In this conversation, make sure you talk about:
- Smoking history and age
- Health or medical conditions that could affect lung cancer screening or treatment
- Any potential benefits or harms of lung cancer screening, diagnosis or treatment
- Whether or not screening is recommended and how often
- Suggestions on ways to help quit smoking
- Suggestions on how to lower risk of lung cancer
Your doctor or healthcare provider can refer you to a good, in-network facility for screening, and they’ll also help you prepare for screening.
4. Understand Medicare costs for lung cancer screening
Original Medicare covers lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) once each year if you meet all of the following criteria: age 55 to 77, don’t show any signs or symptoms of lung cancer, are a current smoker or quit smoking within the last 15 years, you have a smoking history of at least 30 “pack-years” (defined by an average of one pack – 20 cigarettes – per day for 30 years), and a written order from your doctor. The cost of the screening is covered in full if your doctor accepts Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans will always cover the same services as Original Medicare, and specific coverage varies by plan. ApexHealth members with questions about coverage for lung cancer screenings can always ask an ApexAssistant.
For all matters related to your medical health, we recommend contacting your doctor or healthcare provider directly. For any questions related to ApexHealth or our Medicare Advantage plans, give us a call at (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711) to speak with an ApexAssistant. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30 and seven days a week 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.