Low Dose Chest CT for comprehensive lung health assessment
Low-Dose CT or LDCT is a diagnostic imaging test that allows us to take a detailed look at the lungs and other structures in the chest. It is a specific type of scan where the radiation dose used is much lower than a conventional CT scan, but can reveal lung abnormalities. You may be referred for LDCT as part of a lung health check or lung cancer screening programme.
What is lung cancer screening?
There is evidence to show that screening people based on their relative risk of lung cancer can save lives. As a result, patients are now being offered lung health checks where a doctor can assess an individual’s risk factors, often in combination with simple physiological tests. For patients having lung health checks who fall into certain categories, a low-dose CT scan of the lungs may be advised.
A low-dose CT (LDCT) scan is a very quick, painless and non-invasive imaging test that is often used to screen for lung abnormalities including cancer. The test allows us to take multiple and very detailed images of the lungs to look for the early stages of lung cancers that may be too small to be detected by a traditional chest x-ray.
By screening for lung cancer and detecting abnormalities as early as possible, doctors are able to start treatment sooner, increasing the chances of a successful outcome.
Who should consider lung cancer screening?
National guidelines now recommend the use of LDCT for selected patients at high risk of lung cancer, specifically including patients over the age of 35 who have:
- A family history of lung cancer
- Tobacco smoking
- Exposure to asbestos or other cancer-causing elements
- Symptoms including recurrent chest infection, blood when coughing, persistent cough, shortness of breath or fatigue.
LDCT is also a very useful test for patients who have had a confirmed or suspected infection with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) who also have ongoing symptoms.
If you feel that any of the risk factors apply to you, you may consider regular lung cancer screening.
How is it performed?
A low dose CT scan for lung health assessment is a quick, painless and non-invasive imaging test that takes less than a minute to complete. This type of scan uses no contrast dyes and no injections.
After changing into a hospital gown in one of our private changing rooms, you will be asked to lie on your back on a comfortable CT table with your arms raised above your head. The table will then move slowly through the CT scanner whilst detailed images are being taken. During this time, it is very important that you keep very still. We will ask you to hold your breath for a short time to reduce the chance of the images being blurred by movement.
Is LDCT Safe?
During LDCT, you will be briefly exposed to a small and highly focussed amount of radiation in the form of x-rays. For this reason, we would typically not use CT for pregnant patients unless absolutely necessary.
Our state-of-the-art scanner uses lower doses than many other CT scanners in use. Furthermore, the LDCT test is designed to give approximately 5 times less radiation than a conventional CT scan of the same area of the body. A LDCT uses approximately the equivalent radiation dose as 6 months of natural background radiation.
What happens if something is picked up on the scan?
Through our partnership with Heart & Lung Health, LDCT scans performed at the Queen Square Imaging Centre are analysed by highly specialist consultant chest radiologists using sophisticated artificial intelligence software. This software enables our consultants to detect lung abnormalities that could be missed by the human eye.
Findings can be common, but most are noncancerous and harmless. As part of our lung health check package, you will have the opportunity to discuss the results of your scan with a specialist consultant lung physician, either in an online consultation, or face to face if you would prefer. The report from your CT scan will provide your lung specialist with the best quality information to be able to guide your ongoing treatment and care as necessary.
Who are Heart & Lung Health?
Heart & Lung Health are award-winning Cardiothoracic Radiologists with targeted expertise in the diagnosis of lung and cardiac conditions. They use innovative technology to deliver rapid, reliable and uniquely subspecialist imaging reports that are focused on providing genuinely world-class patient care. Learn more about the team behind Heart Lung & Health by clicking here.