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Published on July 25, 2016

Sometimes, a normal chest X-ray isn’t enoughSometimes, a normal chest X-ray isn’t enough

It’s hard to imagine feeling lucky after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Paul Oberlander is one such man.

As a lifelong smoker, the 58-year-old Marstons Mills resident heeded the advice of his primary care provider, Daniel Arnold, MD, and took advantage of Cape Cod Healthcare’s new low-dose CT lung cancer screening program.

It probably saved his life.

“The test did exactly what it was intended to do. It found a small, treatable nodule before it became life-threatening,” said Salvatore Viscomi, MD, chief of the Department of Radiology at Cape Cod Hospital.

chest xrayDr. Viscomi is the champion of this new program, and with outcomes like Oberlander’s, it’s easy to see why.

“We have known for years, while looking for other things, we find nodules in the lungs,” he said. “Early detection is the key to both treatment and survivability. This is exactly what this program is all about.”

A CT scan uses X-ray technology to create multiple pictures of the inside of the body. It provides a clearer, more detailed image.

Low-dose CT lung screening reduces the amount of radiation generated by traditional CT scanning by about 25 percent.

“It is the equivalent of getting five chest X-rays, which is about half of what we receive atmospherically from just walking around,” said Dr. Viscomi.

Oberlander had tried (and failed) to quit smoking many times over the years, yet his annual screening, using a traditional chest X-ray, always came out clean.

Dr. Arnold urged Oberlander to try the low-dose lung CT screening program, and his wife Roberta, who works in the radiology department at Cape Cod Hospital, also gave him a nudge.

“I had no symptoms and thought I was in good health,” he said. “But, when Dr. Arnold suggested I would be a good candidate, I made my appointment right away.”

The results: Oberlander had stage 1 adenocarcinoma, an aggressive cancer most commonly found in smokers. It was detected before it had a chance to spread, making it treatable. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, Oberlander will now be screened for life using the same technology.

Do you qualify?

In 2010, the National Lung Screening Trial, a large randomized study that compared detection rates of traditional chest X-rays to low-dose CT scan, produced results that were hard to ignore.

“The trial compared the detection rates of traditional chest X-rays to low-dose CT scans,” explained Dr. Viscomi. “It had more than 50,000 participants who were followed over the course of three years. Investigators found that not only was low-dose CT better able to detect smaller lung nodules, the mortality rate in this group was reduced by 20 percent.”