Radiology: Lung Cancer Screening
What is a low dose CT Scan?
CT stands for Computed Tomography. This special imaging modality takes 360-degree pictures; specifically of your lungs.
What is getting a low-dose CT Scan like?
- The scan takes about 3-5 minutes, from start to finish.
- You will lay on a table that slides you through a large, “donut-shaped” scanner.
- You will be asked to do 3-4 “breath holds” that are under six seconds each.
How much radiation will I be getting from this low-dose CT scan?
The radiation received is equivalent to about six months of natural background radiation exposure. It is also equivalent to radiation exposure received on an airplane ride from one U.S. coast to the other and back.
Things to consider
Like all screening tests, there are things to consider when deciding to get screened. Lung cancer can reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer by catching and treating it early. Screening reduces lung cancer death rate by 20%. However, there is a chance of a “false positive” which means the results may look like a dangerous cancer when it is not, resulting in further testing. Abnormalities are common and most are noncancerous and harmless. If the CT scan reveals something abnormal, your provider will discuss next steps including further diagnostic tests and/or repeat imaging.
Is lung cancer screening right for me?
- Lung cancer screening should be done every year until you no longer meet the criteria.
- Lung cancer screening may not be right for you if you develop other major health problems.
- If you are not willing to have lung surgery and/or treatment, lung cancer screening may not be right for you.
- Lung cancer screening is not a substitute for quitting smoking. Maintenance of smoking abstinence or smoking cessation is critical.
Screening can help detect lung cancer in its earliest stage, when it has the best chance of being treated and having the best outcome.
Are you eligible?
- Age 50-77 years old
- Average 20 pack/year smoking history (Number of years smoked multiplied by number of packs smoked per day)
- Current smoker or have quit within last 15 years
- No current symptoms of lung cancer
- Have a CT order from your provider
Medicare, Medicaid and most health insurance companies cover the cost of lung cancer screening for those who meet the specified guidelines outlined above. Check with your health insurance provider to be sure a lung cancer screening is covered under your plan.