Dr. Peter Mazzone of the Cleveland Clinic is excited about the results he has seen.
Research shows CAT scans lower the number of deaths due to lung cancer by twenty percent in people 55 to 74 years old who are long term heavy smokers. And now the Clinic is offering lower dose radiation CAT scans to those high risk lung cancer patients. Dr Mazzone likes the idea of the CAT scan, especially because they can offer a scan with lower radiation, "We're still able to get very clear pictures with modern scanner with a lower dose than I would use for somebody who's having a problem."
In the United States, lung cancer kills more people than breast, pancreatic, prostate and colon cancer combined. That's why Clinic doctors feel this program is so important, "I think it's a wonderful advance, twenty percent reduction in cancer, we don't get that very often. However there are some real downsides people need to understand," said Dr Mazzone.
CAT scans provide a much more detailed picture of the lungs than x-rays but the downside, Dr. Mazzone mentions, is that patients, who most likely are healthy, will be exposed to the radiation of a cat scan, and even though it's a lower dose than a normal cat scan, it's still significantly more radiation than an X-ray.
And CAT scans, often times pick up nodules that, are more often than not, harmless, but patients must then go through further expensive testing to be sure they are cancer free.
But for high risk patients the Clinic, and Dr. Mazzone believe the benefits outweigh those risks.