A federal organization called the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force is asking for the public's input today before it makes the recommendation for smokers nationwide to get screened for lung cancer.

But the Portneuf Medical Center has already been concocting a program which will do just that.

Cardio and thoracic surgeon Dr. Juan Leon said this will be Idaho's first lung screening program of this nature.

"We do mammograms for screening for breast cancer, but we really did not have a tool to screen for lung cancer," Leon said.

This program will give people within the community who think they might be a high-risk for lung cancer, a chance to detect the disease.

"One of the ways we can take care of them is through this low-dose CT scan that is nothing less than an X-ray of the chest to detect any masses."

The patient will be placed on a bed which will enter into a large, circular CT scanner called the Aquilion, which is different from other types of X-ray scanners since this one can collect four times the amount of data than a standard scanner, while giving a three-dimensional view of the body. 

Doctors say, this allows them to detect any sort of abnormalities or lesions on every part of the lung. Leon said there are seven of these CT scanners at Portneuf.

But, this process can get expensive.

Leon said the majority of the cost will be picked-up by the hospital, but patients are still looking at a $200 dip into their wallets since the procedure is not covered by medical insurance at the moment.

Portneuf CFO and VP of Finance John Abreu said this process will significantly cost the hospital since it will be footing the majority of the bill, however he feels this sort of procedure is a necessity, nonetheless.

"This is a way to preemptively look at disease management and make sure that folks who may have an indication for the disease are able to screen for it," Abreu said. "If you don't have the screening, then things may go undetected and then become much worse later on and then become more difficult to treat."

Out of the trove of cancers, Leon said lung cancer is the leading cause of death. Out of those who have lung cancer, he said smoking accounts for the majority of those cases.

Leon said those who are high-risk are: heavy smokers, people exposed to carcinogens, people who have a 30-year history of smoking, and those who are at least 55-years old.

Some doctors feel this procedure is too intruding on patients, installing more fear and anxiety in them than there should be if the screening turns out to produce results not showing any signs of cancer.

He said this program is expected to officially launch this upcoming month.

However, Leon said with the extremely low-dose of radiation emitted from the procedure, patients should always be safe when it comes to something that could their lives.

The USPSTF will take public comments until August 26. Here is a link to the website for those who want to give their input: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/tfcomment.htm

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