by Steve O’Kelley

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, killing more people than colon, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers combined. Eighty-five percent of lung cancer cases occur in current or former smokers.

Fortunately, this disease is often treatable if caught early. Recent studies show that low-dose CT lung cancer screening can lower your risk of dying from lung cancer. Even more encouraging is that this screening is available to you in Rutherford County.

LDCT (Low-Dose Computed Tomography) works much like an X-ray to produce pictures of your chest and lungs. This screening detects lung abnormalities with less radiation than a conventional CT scan. The CT machine takes a detailed picture of your lungs that helps your physician locate anything abnormal. The scan takes less than 30 seconds and can detect extremely small nodules—meaning cancer can be found in its earliest stages when it’s most treatable.

Early in the disease, lung cancer often produces no signs or symptoms at all. That is why it is important to get screened as soon as possible if you are at risk. In some patients, symptoms may indicate the potential presence of lung cancer:

  • Chronic cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Coughing up blood
    • Hoarse voice
    • Chronic fatigue
    • Headaches
    • Painful lumps

To undergo LDCT lung screening, the first step is to make an appointment with your primary care provider. This appointment will be a time for your physician to determine if you are eligible for screening. If you are eligible, your primary care provider will schedule your LDCT scan.

What are the benefits of low-dose lung screening?

  • Capable of detecting very small but potentially cancerous cells at the earliest stage for the least invasive treatment
    • Only takes a few moments of your time
    • Painless, non-invasive and without any immediate side effects
    • Ninety percent less radiation than a conventional CT scan
    • Proven to reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer among high-risk patients.

Remember, a LDCT screening can detect lung cancer in its earliest stages, but it cannot prevent or cure disease. The only way to stop cancer before it starts is to stop smoking. If you think you may be ready to quit, talk to your primary care provider for guidance and helpful tips.

Rutherford Regional Health System is pleased to announce it now offers this screening close to home. For more information, talk to your doctor or learn more about Rutherford Regional at


Steve O’Kelley is Radiology Director, Rutherford Regional Health System.