The odds of beating lung cancer — the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths in Louisiana and nationwide — are better if the cancer is caught early, and a new type of screening is helping physicians save lives, a news release from North Oaks Medical Center says.

North Oaks is one of the first hospitals on the north shore to offer the low-dose Computed Tomography cancer screening for people with significant risk of lung cancer because of age and smoking history. The screening is already proving beneficial, the release said. One of the first patients tested was found to be positive even though the patient had no symptoms.

Radiologist Dr. J.P. Miller, of North Oaks Imaging Associates said symptoms of lung cancer may include a persistent cough, pain in the chest, shoulder or back that is unrelated to coughing pain, shortness of breath and changes in the voice, such as being hoarse. The number of years patients have smoked and the number of packs smoked per day also increase risk, he said.

Patients may qualify for the CT screenings if they are ages 55-79, have smoked a pack a day for at least 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years, are current smokers, or former smokers who quit within the past 15 years, he said.

Miller recommends patients talk with their primary care physician to determine if they are a candidate for the CT screening, which takes about 10 minutes and is performed by a registered technologist. Doctors can provide an order for the test. Each cash price test costs $150 and covers the screening and radiologist’s reading fees. Patients should check with their insurance company to determine if the test is a covered service under their plan. In some cases, additional medical procedures are needed, for which normal billing processes will be followed.

CT lung cancer screening services are provided at North Oaks Diagnostic Center, 15837 Paul Vega, MD, Drive, Hammond and North Oaks-Livingston Parish Medical Complex, 17199 Spring Ranch Road, Livingston.

To schedule an appointment, call North Oaks Patient Scheduling from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. In Hammond, call (985) 230-7777 and in Livingston, call (225) 686-4899.