What Do I Need to Know about Lung Cancer Screening?
Should You Be Screened for Lung Cancer?
- Lung cancer screening can help find lung cancer at an early stage when it is easier to treat.
- At this time, studies have shown that low-dose CT scan is the only lung cancer screening tool that reduces the risk of dying from lung cancer.
- Lung cancer screening is not right for everyone.
One reason why lung cancer is so serious is because by the time you have symptoms, it may already have spread and become more difficult to treat. Screening is looking for cancer before you have any symptoms, which can help find cancer at an early stage when it may be easier to treat.
Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest risks and most benefits. They look at results over time to see if finding the cancer early decreases one's chances of dying from the disease. Three such screening tests include:
- Chest X-ray: A plain X-ray of your chest. An X-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. Chest X-ray is no longer recommended for screening.
- Sputum cytology: Procedure in which a sample of mucus you cough up from the lungs (called sputum or phlegm) is looked at under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present.
- Low-dose CT scan: A CT (or CAT) scan is a special kind of X-ray that takes many pictures as you lie on a table that slides in and out of the machine. A computer then combines these pictures into a detailed picture of your body.
Of these tests, studies showed that only low-dose CT (LDCT) scan reduced the risk of dying from lung cancer in high-risk populations. Chest X-ray and sputum cytology are two screening tests that have been used to check for signs of lung cancer, but do not decrease the risk of dying from lung cancer.
Resources for You
You may have many questions when considering screening for lung cancer. These resources can help you understand lung cancer screening.
Should You Get Screened for Lung Cancer?
- Is Lung Cancer Screening Right for Me?
View this Q and A about lung cancer screening.
- Interactive Lung Cancer Screening Tool
Use our interactive online tool to determine if lung cancer screening is recommended for you.
Tools for Scheduling a Screening
- Talking with Your Doctor about Screening for Lung Cancer
If you are at high risk and lung cancer screening is recommended, take this printout to your doctor to discuss next steps.
- What to Look for in a Lung Cancer Screening Facility
If you are eligible for lung cancer screening, this guide can help you find an experienced lung cancer screening facility.
Lung Cancer Screening Insurance Coverage
- Is Lung Cancer Screening Covered Under Your Insurance?
Learn about lung cancer screening for each insurance type in an easy to understand way.
- Lung Cancer Screening Insurance Checklist
Use these talking points to discuss lung cancer screening coverage with your insurance company.
- Lung Cancer Screening Coverage Chart
Learn about lung cancer screening for each insurance plan type.
- Medicare Coverage for Lung Cancer Screening: Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to many commons questions about Medicare and lung cancer screening coverage.
For Health Professionals
- Should My Patient Be Screened?
Review the criteria to determine if your patient is eligible for lung cancer screening.
- Talking with Your Patients about Screening for Lung Cancer
Use this document from the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) to discuss lung cancer screening with your patients.
Lung Association Position Statements
- American Lung Association Statement on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Decision Regarding Coverage on LCDT Screening
Read the Lung Association's response to Medicare's decision to cover lung cancer screening.
- Providing Guidance on Lung Cancer Screening to Patients and Physicians
This report (April 2015) is an update on lung cancer screening from the American Lung Association Lung Cancer Screening Committee.
Interactive Lung Cancer Screening ToolLearn more
Communicating with Your Lung Cancer Care TeamDownload
Is lung cancer screening right for me?Download
Lung Cancer Insurance ChartDownload
Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 3, 2016.