Get Screened 2017-09-01T13:25:16+00:00

How a Lung Cancer Screening Could Save Your Life

Screening can help detect lung cancer before symptoms occur. Treatments usually work best at the earliest stages of cancer. Sadly, lung cancer usually isn’t found until it has spread. As a result, lung cancers cause more deaths than any other cancer. The life-saving solution to this problem is early detection through lung cancer screening!

Low dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening for lung cancer has been shown to reduce lung cancer mortality by up to 20%

Who Should Get Screened for Lung Cancer?

According to the United States Preventative Services Task Force, individuals at high risk for lung cancer should get screened annually. This high-risk group includes all current and former smokers, ages 55-80 years, who have significant cumulative tobacco smoke exposure.

Talk to your doctor about a lung cancer screening if you:

  • Are between the ages of 55 and 80
  • Are current or former smokers* with a 30-pack per year history equivalent to one of the following:
    • One pack a day for 30 years
    • Two packs a day for 15 years
    • Three packs a day for 10 years

Additional risk factors include:

  • Contact with second-hand smoke

  • Contact with radon

  • Contact with asbestos or other cancer-causing agents

  • History of other cancers

  • History of lung disease

  • Family history of lung cancer

*If you are a former smoker, you must have quit within the last 15 years

Lung Cancer Symptoms

See your doctor immediately if you have these symptoms:

  • Cough that lasts

  • Blood in mucus

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

  • Pain in chest area

  • Tiredness that lasts

  • Pneumonia

  • Hoarse voice

  • Pain when swallowing

  • Weight loss

  • Cough that lasts

  • Blood in mucus

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

  • Pain in chest area

  • Tiredness that lasts

  • Pneumonia

  • Hoarse voice

  • Pain when swallowing

  • Weight loss

What to Expect During a Lung Cancer Screening

Research supports using spiral (also called helical) LDCT of the chest for lung cancer screening.

Before the test, remove any metal objects on your body.

During the test, you will lie on a table that moves through a machine with a large tunnel in the middle. You will be alone in the room, but a CT technologist will operate the machine in a nearby room. He or she will be able to hear and speak to you at all times. You will be asked to take a deep breath and hold it in for a few seconds while the pictures are taken. You might hear buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds. It only takes a few seconds to take the pictures. However, the whole process takes about 20-30 minutes.

After the test, a radiologist will read these scans. The results are sent to your doctor, or directly to you, within a few days. If no nodules are found, your next LDCT should be in one year.

If the LDCT pictures show nodules in the lungs, they are not necessarily cancerous. Your doctor will look for clues, such as density, in these nodules to determine if they could be cancer. Follow up tests might be necessary to monitor a nodule. Thus, the first LDCT is considered a baseline test. As such, it will be compared to future scans to detect changes that could be a sign of cancer. If cancer is suspected, a biopsy or surgery could be in order. This may or may not result in a cancer diagnosis.

Where to Get Screened for Lung Cancer

Your primary doctor can help you find a screening site in your area that provides high-quality care. Look for the following “must-haves” for screening sites:

  • Follow an organized plan that is updated to include new technology and knowledge like that from NCCN
  • Have a high-quality screening program with enough staff and resources
  • Be accredited to do CT scans by a certifying organization, such as the American College of Radiology
  • Get scans read by an American Board of Radiology board-certified radiologist who is an expert in lung cancer screening
  • Offer modern multislice CT equipment that does high-quality, low-dose and non-contract spiral CT
  • Partner with a health center that has:
    • Experience and excellence in biopsy methods
    • Board-certified pulmonologists (lung doctor)
    • Board-certified thoracic (chest) surgeons who are experts in lung cancer

A Full Guide to Lung Cancer Screenings

The information on this page has been summarized from the NCCN Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines for Patients, sponsored in part and endorsed by Lung Cancer Research Council, as well as Lung Cancer Alliance. The full easy-to read digital guidebook is available online. Select the button below to view it.

VIEW FULL SCREENING GUIDELINES