In the past lung screening has played an important role in the fight to control tuberculosis caused by the TB bacterium and is currently used for the early detection of main lung diseases.
The early diagnosis and treatment of the most severe lung disease, including malignant lung cancer, can be life-saving, so participation in annual voluntary lung screening test is very important and highly recommended.
Participating in a state-funded lung screening over the age of 40 is possible with a referral from your general practitioner, once a year.
Why is lung cancer screening important?
Hungary has the highest mortality rate of lung cancer in the world. Lung cancer is asymptomatic for a long time in most cases, so without regular screening, lung cancer is only detected in an advanced, non-operable stage in most cases. Due to the nature of the disease, early diagnosis is important as it is the key to successful treatment.
Lung screening provides an opportunity for early diagnosis of even fatal lung cancer. Early signs of lung cancer are well recognizable on a chest x-ray. Voluntary lung screening is recommended for all health-conscious people!
However, it is important to know that lung screening alone does not provide a definite diagnosis. The exact diagnosis can be only made together with other imaging procedures, laboratory tests and if there is a suspicion of lung cancer with histopathological examination of a lung biopsy. Lung screening can determine whether further testing is needed.
Lung screening procedure
X-ray or CT (computer tomography) examination is suitable for lung cancer screening. Both imaging procedures are completely painless. On the X-rays, the bones and tissues of the chest become visible, and any space occupying lesions or other changes can be easily recognized on the image.
The advantage of X-ray examination is speed and lower radiation dose. It does not require any intervention and the presence of the pathological lesion can be determined with minimal radiation exposure. Its disadvantage is that it does not give an accurate diagnosis and is not suitable for detecting smaller lesions. If smaller abnormalities need to be diagnosed, a CT scan is required. This results in a higher radiation exposure for the patient and requires more time and preparation.
National Lung Screening Program
A special lung screening program (HUNCHEST2) is currently available in Hungary, which screens men and women over the age of 50 with a low-dose CT scan who meet the following criteria:
- does not have any known neoplastic disease;
- is currently a smoker, or
- he/she has quitted smoking within 15 years and smoked 1 pack of cigarettes a day for an average of 25 years during his/her lifetime.
Participation in the HUNCHEST2 screening program is free. If you have a relative who is a heavy smoker over the age of 50 or a smoker over the age of 50, it is recommended to take part in the examination that only takes a few minutes and causes no discomfort or harmful consequences.
The date of the examination can be booked via phone at the National Institute of Oncology (www.onkol.hu).
Financing lung screening
Among the age-related screening tests, lung screening is the responsibility of the territorially competent lung screening stations and the regional mobile specialist service. Over the age of 40, one lung screening per year is available free of charge with a referral from your GP, however, participation is voluntary and optional. However, it is strongly recommended for those at higher risk, e.g. heavy smokers and people living with diabetes or HIV.
Persons belonging to the following risk groups are required to undergo a lung screening test once a year:
- workers in warming centers and night shelters for the homeless;
- social workers working on the streets;
- people working in soup kitchens;
- volunteers if they work with the homeless for at least a total of 16 hours per week;
- staff working directly with detainees in prisons;
- workers of reception centers and community accommodation;
- staff of custody suites and guarded accommodations;
- healthcare workers working in the pathology and emergency departments of health care institutions;
- healthcare workers working in microbiological laboratories of healthcare providers;
- healthcare workers working in outpatient and inpatient departments of pulmonology in health care institutions.
A person even with social security must pay for lung screening if the lung screening is not carried out for the purpose of mandatory screening, age-related screening or professional medical screening of vocational and higher education institutions.