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When a Low-dose Scan Can Save a Life

When a Low-dose Scan Can Save a Life

If you are a current smoker or have quit smoking within the past 15 years, a simple test at Washington Hospital could save your life. The test, which can detect early stages of lung cancer with a low-dose CT scan, takes only minutes, according to Dr. Sunil Upender, a radiologist at Washington Hospital who supervises and interprets the testing program.

Dr. Upender will discuss the benefits of the low-dose CT scan at a free Thursday, Feb. 16, Washington Hospital Health & Wellness online seminar. Called “Lung Cancer Detection with Low-dose CT,” the 3:30 p.m. program also will feature a powerful survivor story from a community member.

Studies show that a low-dose CT scan can reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer by 20 percent. The scan is a painless and noninvasive procedure to detect lung cancer in individuals who don’t exhibit symptoms. Early detection leads to early treatment and better opportunities for remission and recovery. If lung cancer is caught before it spreads, the likelihood of surviving five years or more improves to 60 percent, according to the American Lung Association.

“Low-dose means the person being screened isn’t exposed to levels of radiation any higher than one might encounter walking around outside,” Dr. Upender explains. A regular CT scan for other purposes has seven times the radiation level. “The low-dose CT scan is safe, fast and could save a life,” he adds.

To be eligible for the scan, the patient has to be between the ages of 50 and 80 years, have a tobacco smoking history of a pack a day on average for 20 years, have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer, and is either a current smoker or one who quit smoking within the past 15 years. A physician’s referral is required.

“Our biggest concern is all those people out there who have been or are current smokers who don’t know about this simple test,” Dr. Upender says. “Only 1 percent of Californians currently get screened; nationally only 6 percent. We could save so many more lives if we can increase screening numbers; studies have shown up to 20,000 lives a year could be saved.”

“If you’ve been a smoker or currently are a smoker, talk to your doctor about having a low-dose CT scan,” Dr. Upender urges. “That talk could save your life. Tell other smokers or former smokers you know about the test too. That could save their life.”

The seminar can be viewed live on Facebook and YouTube. For Facebook, sign in to your account and then go to YouTube does not require an account. Simply go to

For more information on upcoming health-related talks by subject matter experts, see