Screening information for lung cancer
Several groups, including ASCO, provide recommendations for lung cancer screening.
Screening for lung cancer is done with a test called a low-dose helical or spiral computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan. A CT scan takes pictures of the inside of the body with an x-ray machine. A computer then combines these pictures into a detailed, 3-dimensional image that shows any abnormalities or tumors.
CT scanning is not recommended for every person who smokes. The current recommendations are discussed below. It is also important to receive screening at an approved and experienced center. Lung cancer screening is approved by Medicare.
ASCO recommends the following lung cancer screening schedules for people who currently smoke or who have quit smoking:
Yearly screening with a low-dose CT scan is recommended for people age 55 to 74 who have smoked for 30 pack years or more. It is also recommended for those age 55 to 74 who have quit within the past 15 years.
CT screening is not recommended for people who have smoked for less than 30 pack years, are younger than 55 or older than 74, have quit smoking more than 15 years ago, or have a serious condition that could affect cancer treatment or shorten a person's life.
A pack year is equal to smoking 20 cigarettes (1 pack) a day each year.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people age 55 to 80 who have smoked for 30 pack years or more or who have quit within the past 15 years receive screening for lung cancer with low-dose CT scans each year. Screening can stop after a person has not smoked for 15 years or develops a health problem that would shorten their life or prevent them from being able to have surgery for lung cancer.