SOMERVILLE, NJ – Central New Jersey smokers and former smokers at high risk for lung cancer now have expanded access to important screenings that can help diagnose the disease at its earliest, most treatable stages.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset in Somerville has merged its Low-Dose Lung Cancer Screening Programs with its sister hospital in New Brunswick to make it easier and more convenient for patients to be screened and treated at the facility closest to them.

The hospitals are offering the program in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and University Radiology Group.

Sign Up for E-News

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also recently announced that it would cover lung cancer screenings for individuals between the ages of 55 and 80 who are determined to be at high risk for the disease. In addition, most commercial insurance companies are now covering the screenings for high risk individuals.

“Lung cancer is one of the deadliest cancers because there are usually no symptoms until the disease is in its most advanced stages,” said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, medical director of the Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJUH/Somerset.

“By screening high-risk individuals we can identify lung cancer earlier when there is the best chance for successful treatment. With low-dose CT technology, we are able to obtain accurate imaging more quickly and the imaging procedure is safer overall, helping us continue to make our patients’ health and safety a priority.”

“Studies have shown that CT scans can help reduce lung cancer mortality rates by 20 percent among those at high risk for the disease,” said Dr. Todd Demmy,  chief of thoracic oncology, associate chief surgical officer and the chief of thoracic surgery in the division of cardiothoracic surgery at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

“We encourage smokers and former smokers to talk to their doctors about their risk for lung cancer to determine whether they are a candidate for the screening.”

Individuals who are covered by Medicare or Medicaid must meet the following criteria for the lung cancer screening:

- Age 55 to 80 years old
- A tobacco smoking history of at least 30 pack years. Pack years are calculated by multiplying the number of packs smoked per day by the number of years smoked.
- A current smoker or former smoker who has quit within the last 15-years, have no current signs or symptoms of lung cancer, which includes coughing up blood, new shortness of breath, new or changing cough and/ or unexplained weight loss and no history of a chest CT scan within the past 12-months.

Individuals who are between 50-55 years old may also be eligible for the lung cancer screening if they also have an additional risk factor, such as a family history of lung cancer.

Criteria for lung cancer screening vary among commercial insurance companies. Pre-authorization is required for the test.

To start the process, individuals call a new centralized scheduling line at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s Lung Cancer Screening Program – 1-855-RWJ-LUNG.

Patients will meet with either their physician or an advanced practice nurse (APN) at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital to discuss their eligibility for a lung cancer screening and obtain a prescription for the low-dose CT. An appointment for the CT scan may be scheduled for either the New Brunswick or Somerville campus.

For tobacco users, smoking cessation is necessary to achieve the total health benefits of lung cancer screening. Smoking cessation services are also available at either the Tobacco Quitcenter at the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset or the Tobacco Dependence Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

If the diagnosis is cancer, RWJUH and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey offer access to comprehensive cancer care services, including minimally-invasive thoracic surgery, radiation therapy and oncology rehabilitation, as well as access to the latest clinical research studies on lung cancer through the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For more information about the Low-Dose Lung Cancer Screening Program at RWJUH New Brunswick and Somerset, call 1-855-RWJ-LUNG or go towww.rwjuh.edu. For a referral to a physician affiliated with RWJUH, please call 1-888-MD-RWJUH. Follow us on Twitter at www.rwjuh.edu/twitter and Facebook at www.rwjuh.edu/facebook.