Imaging Tests

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Who Should Pay for Lung Cancer Screening?

A CT imaging system. (Derek K. Miller: Flickr)

CT imaging system. (Derek K. Miller: Flickr)

Looking for unique ways to spend your money? Straight outta Compton this week, an announcement: CT scans available at a local medical center for people who are at risk for lung cancer. Cost is $295.

Or, if you live near San Jose, you can walk into a free-standing imaging center that will charge you $349, but according to the center’s website, “check for promotional pricing.” The private imaging center started offering this test six years ago, even though the test was only validated by the medical community last year.

CT — Computed Tomography — is a type of powerful X-ray that makes 3-D images. It has been successfully used since the 1970s to visualize structures inside the body, including abnormalities like tumors. These exams are usually painless.

Only some insurers cover the scan. The rush to provide the test was reignited in June with the publication in JAMA of findings from several studies. There was good news, for sure: as previously reported the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) showed that lung cancer deaths could be reduced by 20 percent by screening people at high risk — mostly those with a serious cigarette addiction. Continue reading