Frequently asked questions


Why should I consider being screened?

  • Earlier detection of cancer.
  • Higher success of treatment.
  • Better survival rates for populations of high-risk people.
  • An opportunity to enroll in a smoking cessation program and quality of life study.

Who is eligible?

At present, studies have proven a benefit to LDCT screening only for high-risk patients. Screening is currently offered to people who:

  • Are between 55 and 74 years old.
  • Have smoked for 30 pack-years or more. (A pack year is the number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years of smoking.)
  • Are current smokers or have quit within the last 15 years.
  • Have no symptoms of a lung condition at the time of screening or a history of lung cancer.

Why does it matter if I have symptoms?

Certain symptoms can be a sign that you have a condition in your lungs that should be evaluated and treated, if necessary, by your health care provider. Having any of these symptoms may affect the results of screening and could delay treatment you may need. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • A new or changing cough
  • New shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Unexplained weight loss

How is the exam performed?

LDCT (non-contrast) lung screening is one of the easiest screening exams you can have.

  • No medications or needles are used.
  • You can eat before and after the exam.
  • You must be able to hold your breath for at least 6 seconds while the scan is being done.
  • Although the actual exam time is about 10 minutes, please allow 45 minutes for the entire screening process.

What are the risks?

  • Radiation exposure: LDCT lung screening uses a small amount of radiation to create images of your lung. While radiation can increase a person’s risk of cancer, your doctor has determined that the benefits of the screening outweigh the risks of being exposed to the small amount of radiation from this exam.
  • False positives/additional testing: LDCT lung screening may find something in the lung that could be cancer but in fact is not. This is called a false positive. In order to make sure these findings are not cancer, you may need additional tests or procedures that can have potential side effects.
  • False negatives: No test 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.

How much does the screening cost?

At this time, most insurance plans do not cover lung cancer screening. We anticipate this will change as the benefits of screening are further demonstrated. For now, the Salem Cancer Institute will offer LDCT to high-risk patients for $99. If needed, scholarships are available.

A significant amount of the program costs are being absorbed by Salem Cancer Institute in order to provide a groundbreaking program that will have a direct impact on the effects of lung cancer in our community. The lung cancer screening program is also made possible in part through a generous grant provided by the Salem Hospital Foundation.

The $99 fee covers the cost of screening only. Visits to your family doctor before or after the procedure, subsequent tests, and any necessary treatments are not included.

What can I expect from the results?

  • The radiologist will review the LDCT looking for abnormalities that might be suspicious for cancer. If no abnormalities are found, screening LDCT is continued on an annual basis.
  • About one out of four LDCT lung screening exams will find something in the lung that may require additional imaging or evaluation. Follow-up is dependent on many factors, including the characteristics of the abnormality on the scan.
  • Most of the time these findings are lung nodules. Lung nodules are small collections of tissue in the lung. Nodules are very common, and the vast majority—more than 97 percent—are not cancer. The most suspicious will be referred for more evaluation. Smaller and less concerning nodules can be followed. This may require more frequent CT scans to determine if they change or grow.
  • Your provider will be notified of your results within three to five business days. If you do not receive your results within two weeks, please call us at 503-561-SCAN (7226).
  • If you have questions or concerns after receiving your results and would like to be connected to a nurse navigator, please call us at 503-561-SCAN (7226).

How can I make an appointment?

Ask your primary care provider to make a referral to the Salem Cancer Institute at 503-561-SCAN (7226). An appointment will be arranged at your convenience.

Where can I get more of the forms I received in my LDCT information packet?

You can use the following links to download and print the forms:

Salem Cancer Institute


2012 Annual Report

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