Cigarette smoking is linked to about 90% of lung cancers. People who have smoked a lot of cigarettes for a long period of time are at greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Low Dose CT (LDCT) lung screening is recommended for the following groups of people who are considered to be at high risk for lung cancer:
- No visible symptoms (Asymptomatic)
- Age 55 – 80 years
- History of "30 pack-year" or more of cigarette smoking
- 1 pack-year = the number of packs of cigarettes smoked/day x the number of years the person has smoked)
- example: 2 packs/day x 15 years = 30 pack-year
- Current smoker or quit within the past 15 years.
- No co-morbidities that would prevent effective treatment for lung cancer.
Additional risk factors include a past history of lung cancer or other smoking related cancer, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, family history of lung cancer, significant exposure to known lung carcinogens (radon, silica, cadmium, asbestos, arsenic, beryllium, chromium, diesel fumes, nickel, coal smoke and soot).
Why does it matter if I have symptoms?
Certain symptoms can be a sign that you have a condition in your lungs that should be evaluated and treated, if necessary, by your health care provider. These symptoms include fever, chest pain, a new or changing cough, shortness of breath that you have never felt before, coughing up blood, or unexplained weight loss. Having any of these symptoms can greatly affect the results of lung screening and may actually delay the treatment you might need.
I am in one of the high-risk groups but have been diagnosed with cancer in the past. Is the Low Dose CT lung screening appropriate for me?
It depends. In some cases, LDCT lung screening will not be appropriate, such as when your doctor is already following your cancer with CT studies. Your doctor will help determine if low dose CT lung screening is right for you.
How often should I be screened?
People who are in either of the two high risk groups for lung cancer should have a low dose chest CT every year until age 80.
Can I refer myself for a LDCT lung screening?
No. A LDCT lung screening exam must be ordered by your physician or other healthcare provider. The exam may show findings that will require additional evaluation and your physician is best able to discuss that with you.