Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and, historically, one of the deadliest.

It is the second most common cancer to develop in both men and women and the number-one cause of cancer deaths in men and women; however, because it’s not symptomatic until advanced stages it often goes unnoticed and is difficult to treat.

But it doesn’t have to be that way – it is better to know than to let it go.

Low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans are highly effective in detecting lung cancer in its early stages, when treatment is most successful and the cure rate is high. The test is quick, easy, and is performed in CMC’s Radiology Department, an ACR accredited facility.

Patients lie on a table as the CT machine takes sweeping images of their chest. The entire test lasts about 30 seconds and does not require any contrast die -– so there’s no needle stick. It’s also safe. The radiation exposure is about the same level that you’d experience on a cross-country flight.

CT results will always be read by a board-certified radiologist and the results will be sent to your physician. In the event your scan turns up something suspicious, you may be referred to a specialist or sent for a follow up screening in a few months time.

Treatment options for lung cancer are more effective and diverse than ever before, especially when detected early.

Chemotherapy, radiation, tumor ablation, and surgery are all offered locally, and CMC’s multi-disciplinary approach ensures that your care will always be well coordinated and comprehensive.

Low-dose CT lung cancer screening isn’t right for everyone. Talk with your doctor if you believe you’re at risk for lung cancer, especially if you are or were a long time smoker. Free annual screening is available for patients who are:

• Current smokers or quit within the last 15 years;

• Have a minimum 30-pack year history (1 pack year = 1 pack/day/year or fractions thereof);

• Between 55 and 77 years old.

Smoking is, by far, the biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer. Quitting smoking not only affects your risk for cancer, it also improves your overall health and the health of those in your household. It is a profound way to make a meaningful difference in many people’s lives.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy. Many resources are available to help you or a loved one along the way. CMC offers the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking program, as well as a class on hypnosis for smoking cessation.

On Nov. 15, the day of the Great American Smokeout, CMC will also have a cigarette take-back bin outside the hospital. Simply drive or walk up and commit to quit by tossing your unused cigarettes or other smoking materials in the collection bin.

Information on support services and our low dose CT lung cancer screening will be available.

CMC Radiology Section Chief Dr. Robert Sprague is with Southern New Hampshire Radiology Consultants in Bedford.