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Published on January 28, 2014

Long-time smoker? A screening can save your life.

By Oleg M. Teytelboym, MD
Cancer imaging specialist at Mercy Fitzgerald and Mercy Philadelphia Hospitals

Lung cancer accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths in America, according to the American Cancer Society. In Philadelphia, lung cancer is the second leading cause of death, with 61.1 deaths per 100,000 population, considerably higher than the statewide average of 50.9 per 100,000 population.

For other cancers, such as breast and colon cancer, there are common screening tests like mammograms and colonoscopies. Previously, the only test for lung cancer was an x-ray, which generally catches lung cancer too late for treatment to succeed. Until now there hasn't been a good means of early detection. Today, a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan can potentially find cancer early, before symptoms appear and when it’s easier to treat.

Annual low-dose CT screening for lung cancer is recommended for high-risk individuals, including those who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or an equivalent amount (i.e. two packs a day for 15 years) and who are between the ages of 55 and 80.

However, high-risk people shouldn't be scanned if they're not healthy enough to withstand cancer treatment, or if they kicked the habit more than 15 years ago. The risk for lung cancer increases with age and cumulative exposure to tobacco smoke. Smoking is the biggest risk factor, and the more and longer people smoke, the higher their risk.

Mercy Fitzgerald and Mercy Philadelphia Hospitals have launched a low-cost lung CT screening program. Designed for long-time smokers, these screenings enable physicians to detect malignancies at a very early stage, which helps to improve survival.

The service will be provided at an affordable cost ($99) so that if a person’s insurance does not cover the screening yet, the price does not deter them from taking this potentially life-saving measure.

Current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer. A physician’s prescription is needed for a lung CT screening so talk to your doctor about whether screening is right for you. And while screening clearly can benefit some people, the best way to avoid lung cancer is to stop smoking.

Low-cost lung CT screenings are available at the following locations:

Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, 1500 Lansdowne Avenue, Darby, PA 19023
Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, 501 South 54th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19023

For appointments, please call 610.237.2525. To learn more, visit

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Mercy Health System
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Conshohocken, PA 19428

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