Lung Cancer Screening

If you are a current smoker, or have smoked in the last 15 years, you may be a candidate for lung cancer screening. Low-dose CT scans are now used at NMMC locations to screen for cancer. These scans use minimal amounts of radiation and can catch lung cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

Talk to your doctor about screening if:

  • You are 55 to 77 years of age
  • You have been a heavy smoker for the last 15 years or more, or have quit within the past 15 years
  • You have no current symptoms of lung cancer 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does it matter if I have symptoms?

Certain signs and symptoms can indicate a lung condition that needs to be evaluated and treated immediately by your health care provider. 

How is the LDCT scan done?

The LDCT lung screening is one of the easiest exams you can have. It takes just a few minutes, and no medications are given or needles used. You can eat and drink before and after the test. You do not even have to change clothes as long as the clothing on your upper body does not contain any metal.

The CT machine is large with an open tunnel in the middle. During the test, you will need to lie on a table that moves through the tunnel. Pillows or straps may be used to support you during the test. You will have to be able
to hold your breath for at least six seconds while the chest scan is taken.

When will I get my results?

The results of your LDCT scan are interpreted using the American College of Radiology’s Lung-RADS™ criteria.

These criteria recommend follow-up based on the results of the LDCT scan, and are broken down as follows:

  • Category 1: negative
  • Category 2: benign
  • Category 3: probably benign
  • Category 4: suspicious

Results that fall in to Categories 1 and 2 typically require repeating your screening annually. However, if Category 3 or 4 findings are noted, additional testing may be required before your next annual screening to tell the difference between those nodules that are non-cancerous and those that could be cancer. The radiologist who reads your LDCT scan will recommend the appropriate follow-up in the written report that is sent to your health care provider.

Generally speaking, about 25 percent of LDCT lung screenings will find something in the lung that may require additional evaluation and testing. Most of the time these findings are lung nodules, which are very small collections of tissue in the lungs. These nodules are quite common, and 97 percent of them are not cancer, but are normal lymph nodes or areas of scarring from past infections. Less commonly, these nodules are lung cancer.

However, if the lung cancer is found as a small nodule, the cancer can be cured 90 percent of the time. That is why LDCT screening is recommended for high-risk patients.

Sources: American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, American Lung Association, National Cancer Institute, National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Are You a Candidate for Lung Cancer Screening?

If you have any questions about lung cancer screening and whether it's right for you, talk to your primary care provider.

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