Finding Early Stage Lung Tumors – $99 Low Dose CT Scans Advertised by a Hospital to Bring in
$99 low-dose CT scans are being advertised by a Michigan hospital seeking new business. The tests must be physician-approved. But what doctor is going to say no when his client is asking for a test he can pay for out of his pocket, and the patient has a history of smoking or work that puts the person at risk of various diseases due to work-related "exposures."
Litigation-driven screenings may become moot as hospitals and professional medical societies seek to put new technology to work. And, at the same time, hospitals can bring in stage 1 and 2 patients who can be better helped by surgery and thus generate procedures and hospital stays. According to the hospital making the offer, the same offer is being made by "several other centers." The article is online, and pasted below.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A CT scan that screens for early signs of lung cancer is now available for heavy smokers at the bargain rate of $99.
Saint Mary’s Health Care this week introduced the program offering the low-dose lung CT in hopes of finding lung cancers at a stage early enough to cure.
“The most reliable way to cure lung cancer is to remove the tumor,” said Dr. Thomas Gribbin, the medical director of the hospital’s Lacks Cancer Center. “The smaller the tumor is, the more likely we are to be successful.”
The new service is offered amid growing support nationally for using the low-dose CT scans to screen for cancer.
But the scans are not typically covered by insurance, and the cost usually runs $300-$500. Saint Mary’s lowered the cost to $99 to encourage smokers to get tested, Gribbin said.
“We’re losing money on it,” said
Lung cancer, the deadliest of cancers, kills about 160,000 people a year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The lack of an effective screening test – like a mammogram or colonoscopy – has been seen as a factor in the high death rate. More than half of lung cancer cases are diagnosed in stage 3 or 4, when it often is inoperable.
Since announcing the $99 scans Sunday, the hospital has received about 50 calls from people inquiring about them. The first scan was conducted Wednesday, May 22.
Who should be tested?
The tests are recommended for people 55 to 74 who have a 30 “pack-year” history of smoking. That includes those who smoked a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.
Ex-smokers who quit in the past 15 years also are advised to get the screening.
Those interested must be referred by their physician. They may call Lacks Cancer Center at 616-685-5203 to see if they qualify.
The scans take only a few minutes, and the patient remains fully clothed. Gribbin said he expects to find abnormalities in 25 to 30 percent of the scans, but not all will be cancerous. The scans will be reviewed by a team of oncologists and chest physicians to determine what should be done next.
“Based on what we see, the first response may be this person needs a conventional, high-resolution CT, or this person needs to be seen by a pulmonary doctor,” he said. “Or the response could be this really looks like cancer and needs to be treated in that way.”
The scans use less radiation than a typical CT scan and “slightly more” than a chest X-ray, he added.
Smokers who undergo the scan also will be counseled about kicking the habit. Gribbin said they will be referred to tobacco cessation programs and told about medications, such as nicotine replacements, that can help with quitting.
“There are a number of centers around the country doing this,” Gribbin said. “We saw this coming, and we thought it was important. We thought it was something our community needed.”