Lung CT Screening
Who Needs a Lung CT Screening?
If you fall into one of the categories considered high risk for developing lung cancer, your doctor will likely offer you a lung cancer screening. A lung cancer screening is also called a lung cancer test or lung cancer CT scan—with CT standing for computed tomography.
Those at highest risk include:
- Older adults who have smoked—Smokers and former smokers who have reached 50 years of age usually get lung cancer screenings.
- People who once smoked heavily but quit—The more heavily you have smoked for more years, the more at risk you are for developing lung cancer.
- People with a history of lung cancer—Lung cancer screening is recommended for people with previous lung cancer. If you had lung cancer five years ago or longer, you might want to request lung cancer screening.
- People with other risk factors for lung cancer—You are more likely to develop lung cancer if you have a family history of the disease, were exposed to asbestos, or experienced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Preparing for a Lung CT Screening
Your doctor will explain how you can prepare for a lung cancer CT scan. Typically, this involves a conversation about your health and removing materials that can interfere with the lung cancer test.
When preparing for lung cancer screening, you may want to consider:
- Talking to your doctor about your health—Inform your doctor of any symptoms or infections you may have recently experienced. Respiratory infections can interfere with the results of a CT scan. Abnormal results can require additional tests that you may want to avoid.
- Removing materials that interfere with your test—Your doctor will likely ask you to remove any metals you may wear on your body that can impact the lung cancer test. These metals can include hearing aids, jewelry, dentures, or glasses. Clothing that includes metal buttons, clasps, or wires can also interfere with the scan.
Risks that can occur include:
There are risks involved with lung CT screening.
Lung cancer test risks:
- Radiation exposure—You will be exposed to a low level of radiation. The amount of radiation exposure is less with a lung cancer CT scan than exposure with other CT scans.
- Follow-up tests—If your doctor identifies possible lung cancer, they will likely order additional tests that can include a biopsy or more exposure to radiation.
- Discovering advanced cancer—Your doctor may discover late-stage cancer that is difficult to treat.
- Discovering benign tumors—Your doctor may find slow-growing tumors that might never harm your health. Your doctor may still recommend that you remove the tumor, as it is difficult to predict which tumors will eventually grow and harm you.
- Overlooking cancer—Lung cancer screening may not discover every cancer in your body. Some cancer is obscured or hidden, making it more difficult to find.
- Identifying other health issues—During your test, your doctor may identify other health issues. For example, your doctor may see possible signs of additional heart or lung issues.
After a Lung CT Screening
A CT lung cancer screening is non-invasive and does not require much time from your day. After your lung cancer test, you can continue your day without any additional limitations or restrictions. An imaging specialist can easily review the images later to identify any concerning irregularities.