Low-Dose CT Scan for Lung Cancer Screening
Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It usually affects current and former smokers. The longer you’ve smoked, the higher your risk of developing lung cancer. But you can increase your odds of surviving lung cancer by having annual screening exams. A test called a low-dose CT scan can detect lung cancer in its earliest stage, while it’s still treatable.
What are Low-Dose CT Scans?
Chances are, you’ve heard of a test called a CT scan. During a CT scan, you lie on a table that slides in and out of a large X-ray machine. Special imaging equipment takes many pictures of an area inside your body. Together these images create a 3-D view of the scanned body part.
Low-Dose CT scans create the same detailed pictures as standard CT scans. But, they use lower amounts of radiation and do not involve needles or contrast dye. The test is quick and painless.
Research has shown Low-Dose CT scans of the chest are the best way to find tiny tumors or other growths in the lungs. Screening for lung cancer with Low-Dose CT instead of traditional chest X-rays can reduce the risk of death by up to 20 percent. When lung cancer is found early, it can be treated before it has a chance to grow or spread.
Who Qualifies for Lung Cancer Screening?
Annual screening exams are reserved for people considered high-risk for lung cancer. You may qualify if you meet all the following criteria:
- You’re 55-77* years old.
- You don’t have any signs or symptoms of lung cancer. Symptoms usually don’t show up until the disease has already reached an advanced stage.
- You’re a current smoker, or you’ve quit smoking within the last 15 years.
- Your health is generally good. You must be healthy enough to undergo follow-up tests and treatment.
- You’ve smoked for at least 30 “pack years.” For example, you’ve smoked one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years.
If you’re interested in getting screened, talk to your primary care provider. Your provider will help confirm that you meet the screening criteria, and he or she can order your screening and/or refer you to the closest facility that performs Low-Dose CT scans.