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What You Should Know About Lung Cancer Screening

Jun 22, 2021
What You Should Know About Lung Cancer Screening
An annual scan is recommended for most individuals who meet the screening criteria.

What is the goal of lung screening?

The goal of lung screening is to identify cancer at an early stage when it is easier to cure. Without lung cancer screening, lung cancer is usually not found until a person develops symptoms when the cancer can be much harder to treat.

Who should get a lung screening?

The new guidelines* from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends lung screening for the following group of people who are at high risk for lung cancer:

• Age 50-80

• Current or former smokers (if former, have quit within the past 15 years) who have a 20-pack-year history of smoking. For example, someone who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years or 2 packs a day for 10 years. Your doctor can help you calculate your pack year amount if needed.

• No lung symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath. The old guidelines are currently covered by insurance and CMS, often with no copay. Check with your doctor to see if you are eligible under the new guidelines.

What is lung cancer screening, and how is it performed?

Lung cancer screening is performed using a CT (CAT) scan to take a picture of your lungs. It’s one of the easiest screening exams you can have — it’s fast, painless and non-invasive. No medications are given, and no needles are used. You can also eat before and after the exam.

How often should I get screened?

Screening is a program over time, not a single test. An annual scan is recommended for most individuals who meet the screening criteria.

What are the risks of lung cancer screening?

There are several risks and limitations of lung cancer screening. You will be exposed to a small amount of radiation during the exam, but the CT is low-dose and four times less than a routine chest CT. You and your physician can decide if the benefits of the screening outweigh the risks of the small amount of radiation from this exam. Lung cancer screening tests can find nodules that look like cancer when they are not (called “false positives”) or may miss some cancers (called “false negatives”). Some patients screened may have a spot that requires more testing, ranging from more diagnostic testing to a biopsy, but the majority of these simply get a follow-up CT scan to monitor the spot. Your doctor may recommend follow-up care based on national guidelines.

What can you expect from the results?

Your health care provider will receive the results of your exam and discuss any concerning findings with you. Additionally, Invision Sally Jobe partners with HealthONE hospitals, where your case may be reviewed by a multidisciplinary team of physicians who are lung experts. If your exam is abnormal, we will contact your health care provider and offer to refer your case to that team of experts.

What about smoking?

Screening is not a substitute for smoking cessation. Even in older, heavier smokers, those who stop smoking before or shortly after starting annual screening have an additional reduction in their risk of dying from lung cancer. It is never too late to stop. Ask your doctor to guide you on how best to stop smoking or call 1.800.QUIT.NOW.

I think I qualify for lung cancer screening. What should I do next?

NOTE: An order from your health care provider is required for a lung cancer screening exam. Contact us if you would like assistance; call 720.493.3700.