What to Know About Lung Cancer Screening

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Lung cancer screening means you're testing somebody to see if there's any sign they have lung cancer before they develop any symptoms with the purpose of finding it early. The test that you use for lung cancer screening is called a low-radiation dose chest CT scan. Those individuals who are at risk for having lung cancer, which is defined by their age and their history of smoking cigarettes are advised to get screened by having this low-dose CT scan annually while they're eligible.

So ideally, anyone who's being screened for lung cancer will have a visit with a healthcare provider. And they'll discuss what it means to be screened. What are the potential benefits? Are there some potential harms that they should be aware of? They'll make a decision to proceed based on their own value set.

After that conversation, they will get a low-radiation dose chest CT scan done. That's essentially laying on a table, going through a scanner, probably takes 10, 15 seconds at the most, no pain. Those pictures are then reviewed by a radiologist. And the results are shared with the patient by the provider that helped to arrange for the screening to be done.

The eligibility criteria for lung cancer screening changed a little bit over the past few years. Currently, most insurers will cover lung cancer screening for individuals who are between the ages of 50 and 80. And they've smoked cigarettes in their life, a total of at least 20 pack-years. A pack-year means if you smoked a pack a day for a year, that's one pack-year. And you'd have smoked cigarettes within the last 15 years.

It's extremely important to get screened for lung cancer if you're eligible. Lung cancer is curable when it's found early. And though there have been amazing treatment advances in the last decade or so, if it's found later in its course, it's much harder to treat. And when it's an advanced lung cancer, it's not currently felt to be curable.

So if we can find it early, treatments are available that are quite tolerable and able to cure that cancer. So we'd love everyone who's eligible to get screened.