Why screen for lung cancer?

Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women in the United States (not including skin cancer). Fortunately, detecting lung cancer early through screenings can help improve outcomes and quality of life. In fact, the number of new lung cancer cases continues to decrease, partly because more people are quitting smoking (or not starting) and advances in early detection and treatment.

What is lung cancer screening?

Lung cancer screening is a medical test that is used to detect lung cancer in individuals who do not show any symptoms of the disease. Screening is not meant to prevent lung cancer, but to look for it early on and help improve treatment options and increase survival rates.

Screening guidelines

The American Cancer Society recommends that people who are at high-risk for lung cancer, such as current or former smokers, undergo yearly lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan. 

High-risk individuals are those who are:

  • Between the ages of 55 and 80 and
  • Have a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (a pack-year is defined as smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for one year) and
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.

It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening with your healthcare provider to determine whether it is appropriate for you.

Types of screening

The primary type of lung cancer screening is a low-dose CT (LDCT) scan. LDCT scans are currently the most effective and commonly used method for lung cancer screening. They can help find abnormal areas in the lungs that may be cancer. Research has shown that unlike chest x-rays, yearly LDCT scans to screen people who are at a higher risk of lung cancer can save lives. 


Your health care provider will discuss your results after your screening test. If your scan shows any abnormalities, you may be requested to do additional tests, such as a PET scan or a biopsy. 

Should you be diagnosed with lung cancer, talk to your care team about your treatment options. Treatment will vary depending upon your type, location, stage and biologic makeup of the cancer.

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