The Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute recently started offering lung cancer screenings using new equipment designed to detect cancer in the early or precancerous stages.

The low-dose computed tomography, or LDCT, will cost $275 per session, which for most patients would be an out-of-pocket expense because the testing is not yet approved for Medicare or most private insurance patients.

However, Dr. Mayuko Fukunaga, a pulmonologist with Chest Medicine Associates, one of three specialty physician practices working with the cancer institute, said she expects insurance will eventually cover the tests. The American Lung Association recommends the screenings for some at-risk patients, including those who have smoked the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years and are 55 to 74 years old.

Fukunaga said prior to this year, the closest LDCT testing was at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

Chest Medicine Associates, Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and Spectrum Medical Group are collaborating with the cancer institute for the LDCT screening.

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